- WH press secretary says move to hospital was out of ‘abundance of caution.’
- Joe Biden says he’s received 2 negative COVID-19 tests.
- Melania Trump also tests positive, has ‘mild cough and headache.’
- Many White House, senior administration officials undergoing tests.
- Multiple people who attended Rose Garden event test positive.
Stricken by COVID-19, a feverish and “fatigued” U.S. President Donald Trump was taken to a military hospital Friday after being injected with an experimental antibody cocktail at the White House.
In a day of whipsaw events, the president ripped up his re-election roadmap because of the virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, and others in his orbit tested positive as well.
The White House said the visit of “a few days” to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., just outside of Washington D.C, was precautionary and that Trump would continue to work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties.
Trump walked out of the White House and gave a thumbs up to media but did not speak. Members of the aircrew, Secret Service agents and White House staff wore face coverings to protect themselves from the president aboard the helicopter.
In a video taped before leaving for Walter Reed, Trump said, “I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out.”
WATCH | ‘I think I’m doing very well’:
Just a month before the presidential election, Trump’s revelation that he was positive for the virus came by tweet at about 1 a.m. ET on Friday after he had returned from a Thursday afternoon political fundraiser in New Jersey. He had gone to the event despite knowing he had been in contact with Hope Hicks, one of his top aides, who had tested positive for the virus that has infected millions in America and killed more than a million people worldwide.
Trump’s wife, Melania, also tested positive, the president said, and several others in the White House have, too, prompting concern that the White House or even Trump himself might have spread the virus further.
Trump’s diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus has spread through the upper levels of government. His immediate campaign events were all cancelled, and his next debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, is now in question.
Trump has been trying all year to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind, and he has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable.
He has mostly refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing face coverings in public and practising social distancing. Instead, he has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of often maskless supporters.
“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May. With the election coming up in about a month, he is urging states and cities to “reopen” and reduce or eliminate shutdown rules despite continuing virus outbreaks.
‘In good spirts’
The White House tried to maintain an atmosphere of business-as-usual on Friday.
“President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms and has been working throughout the day,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the president will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.”
The president’s physician said in a memo late Friday that Trump received a dose of an experimental antibody cocktail made by Regeneron that is in clinical trials. Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley said Trump “remains fatigued but in good spirits” and that a team of experts was evaluating both the president and first lady in regard to next steps.
Melania Trump, who is 50, has a “mild cough and headache,” Conley reported, and the remainder of the first family, including the Trumps’ son, Barron, who lives at the White House, tested negative.
Both Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have tested negative, their campaign said. Vice-President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus Friday morning and “remains in good health,” his spokesperson said.
Rose Garden event attendees test positive
Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was with him and many others on Saturday and who has been on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, also tested negative, the White House said. It was confirmed that she had a mild case of COVID-19 earlier this year and has now recovered.
A number of people who attended the Rose Garden event announcing Barrett’s nomination said Friday they tested positive, including at least two Republican senators — Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.
University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins — who was at the event because Barrett is a Notre Dame alumna and law school professor — also said he tested positive for COVID-19. He apologized earlier this week for not wearing a mask at the ceremony.
And Kellyanne Conway, a former White House counsellor who was also at the event, tweeted late Friday she had tested positive. She said she had a “light cough” and had “begun a quarantine process.”
Tracing president’s contacts
Very early Friday, after returning from the Thursday afternoon New Jersey fundraiser, Trump tweeted: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Hours earlier, the White House said Hicks, who had traveled with him during the week, had tested positive.
While House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Friday tried to assure the public that Trump was conducting business as usual, even as he confirmed that the White House knew Hicks had tested positive before Trump attended the fundraiser.
“I can tell you in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as Marine One was taking off yesterday,” said Meadows. Several staffers were pulled from the trip, but Trump did not cancel, and there was no direct evidence that her illness was connected to his.
Many White House and senior administration officials were undergoing tests Friday, but the full scale of the outbreak around the president may not be known for some time as it can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test. Officials with the White House Medical Unit were tracing the president’s contacts.
Before Friday evening, Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear ill. He is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than seven million people nationwide.
Trump has been trying all year to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. In the best of cases, if he develops few symptoms, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble, it will likely force him off the campaign trail and puts his participation in the second presidential debate into doubt.
His handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware, citing concern about the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, physically distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.
WATCH | Biden offers condolences, urges COVID-19 vigilance:
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said of Biden. “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.”
In a tweet Friday morning, Biden said he and his wife “send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”
World leaders offered the president and first family their best wishes after their diagnosis, as governments used their case as a reminder for their citizens to wear masks and practice physical distancing measures.
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