U.S. President Donald Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID-19, the White House said Friday, after he revealed that he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, would not specify what symptoms the president was experiencing while speaking to reporters, but he tried to strike a calming tone.
“The American people can rest assured that we have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery,” Meadows said.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added in a tweet that the president was “in good spirits.”
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
WATCH l Trump speaks to Fox News about getting tested:
Trump’s positive test came just hours after he confirmed that senior aide Hope Hicks, who had travelled with him several times this week, had come down with the virus. Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening, and he looked to be in good health.
Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 205,000 people in the U.S.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.
In a memorandum, the president’s physician said that Trump and his wife, who is 50, “are both well at this time” and “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”
The diagnosis, just weeks before the Nov. 3 election, marks a major blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them, despite a growing national death toll of more than 205,000 and an unemployment rate of nearly eight per cent. It stands as the most serious known public health scare encountered by any sitting American president in recent history.
Biden resumes campaign
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has become a major flashpoint in his race against Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail.
Biden tweeted on Friday afternoon that he and his wife, Jill, had tested negative for the virus. Earlier, the couple said they were praying for the health and safety of the president’s family.
I’m happy to report that Jill and I have tested negative for COVID. Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern. I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands.
Biden planned to campaign at a scheduled event in Michigan. Since September, the former vice-president has resumed a more active campaign schedule but with small, physically distanced crowds and the candidate regularly wearing a mask.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said at their debate Tuesday. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
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Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, has also tested negative for the virus, their campaign said.
While there is currently no evidence that Trump is seriously ill, scenarios exist where if the president was unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, Vice-President Mike Pence would “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for the coronavirus, the White House said Friday morning.
An official with the Commission on Presidential Debates confirmed that no changes are anticipated to the debate scheduled on Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City between Pence and Harris.
A number of world leaders sent their best wishes to the president and his wife for a speedy recovery, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spent time in isolation as a precaution early in the pandemic after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive.
‘A brazen invitation’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had been tested out of an abundance of caution but has yet to receive the results. She told MSNBC in an interview Friday morning that she hoped the president’s result would prove a learning experience for skeptics.
“This is tragic. It’s very sad,” Pelosi said. “But it also is something — going into crowds, unmasked, and all the rest — was sort of a brazen invitation for something like this to happen.”
Pelosi said Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary trying to negotiate with Democrats and Republicans in Congress on a new coronavirus relief package, has tested negative.
Watch | Trudeau asked about the president’s diagnosis:
A White House aide said in a tweet that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner have tested negative while the Republican National Committee said in a statement that chair Ronna McDaniel tested positive on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Jon Karl, the head of the White House press association, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she was unaware Hicks was undergoing testing when she held a briefing with reporters late Thursday morning.
Just finished a great phone call with <a href=”https://twitter.com/POTUS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@POTUS</a>. He’s in good spirits and we talked business — especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve.
On Capitol Hill, Department of Health and Human Services head Alex Azar was testifying at a House committee. Azar spoke while wearing a mask, a departure from most witnesses from the administration in recent weeks.
McConnell told a conservative radio host there’s no plan at this time to postpone confirmation hearings scheduled for Oct. 12 for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere said Barrett had tested negative for the virus. Judiciary committee member Sen. Mike Lee of Utah — who met with the nominee earlier this week — confirmed his own positive result.
Lee expressed confidence he’d be back in time for the confirmation hearings.
Trump rallies scrapped
“Campaign events involving the president’s participation are in the process of being moved to virtual events or are being temporarily postponed,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement. A rally had been scheduled for Friday night in central Florida.
Hicks, one of the president’s most trusted and longest-serving confidants, began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane, and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday, the person said.
Hicks had also accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One to Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland.
Melania Trump said in a series of tweets she is experiencing mild symptoms and has postponed all upcoming engagements. Barron, her son with the president, has tested negative for the virus.
Thank you for the love you are sending our way. I have mild symptoms but overall feeling good. I am looking forward to a speedy recovery.
Trump had consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, even after White House staff and allies were exposed and sickened.
He encouraged governors to reopen their states and tried to focus the country’s attention on efforts to revive the economy as he seeks another four-year term, and he touted a series of remedies that ranged from one not proven in double-blind clinical trials to one the medical community characterized as dangerous and alarming.
Watch | Aaron Blake on how the Trump campaign may change:
Family members not masked at debate
The White House has access to near-unlimited resources, including a constant supply of quick-result tests.
In mid-March, the White House began taking the temperature of everyone entering the complex after at least three people who later tested positive came in close proximity to the president at his private Florida club.
Senior staff have been tested for COVID-19 daily since two people who work at the White House complex tested positive in early May, prompting the White House to step up precautions. Everyone who comes into contact with the president also receives a quick-result test.
In May and June, positive tests were registered for one of the president’s personal valets, Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who works for Trump’s campaign and is dating his eldest son.
On Tuesday night at the debate in Cleveland, several Trump family members were seen not wearing masks despite the indoor setting.
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