U.S. President Donald Trump experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ of coronavirus, says White House

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.

It wasn’t immediately clear what specific symptoms the president was experiencing.

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 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, (at)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.”

“Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering,” he added.

WATCH l Trump speaks to Fox News about getting tested:

Thursday night on Fox News, U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed he ‘just went for a test’ for the novel coronavirus, but made no mention of having received results. A few hours later, Trump tweeted that he and his wife had tested positive. 0:31

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 seven million confirmed infections. And it stands as the most serious known public health scare encountered by any sitting American president in recent history.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic has become a major flashpoint in his race against Democrat Joe Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially 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.”

WATCH l Trump has some risk factors:

U.S. President Donald Trump ‘could potentially get very ill from this,’ says infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chalkrabarti, who believes Trump being in his 70s is the biggest concern after his COVID-19 diagnosis. 1:56

“We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family,” Biden said in a tweet Friday on behalf of himself and his wife, Jill.

There was no immediate comment from the Biden campaign on whether the former vice-president had been tested or whether he was taking any additional safety protocols.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. 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.

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” until Trump could provide a written declaration to the contrary.

Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for the coronavirus, the White House said Friday morning.

A number of world leaders sent their best wishes to the president and his wife for a speedy recovery, including Canadian 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,” said Pelosi. “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 | Science vs. politics and the COVID-19 vaccine:

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says he and his running mate Kamala Harris trust the scientists when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine prompting Donald Trump to question Biden’s intelligence. 1:54

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.

Trump had been scheduled to attend a fundraiser at his Washington, D.C., hotel and hold a political rally in Sanford, Fla., on Friday evening. But just after 1 a.m., the White House released a revised schedule with only one event: A phone call on “COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.”

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 evening, 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 tweet that she had postponed all upcoming engagements. 

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 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 | Trump denies downplaying coronavirus, insists again it will disappear:

At an ABC News town hall, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed a coronavirus vaccine is just three to four weeks away. He also claimed that he never downplayed the virus publicly, despite evidence to the contrary. 0:46

Family members not masked at debate

The White House has access to near-unlimited resources, including a constant supply of quick-result tests.

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.

Melania Trump is seen wearing a mask at Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland. From top to bottom, Trump children Eric, Ivanka, Tiffany and Donald Jr. are shown without masks. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House got its first COVID-19 scare in early March when at least three people who later tested positive came in close proximity to the president at his private Florida club.

In mid-March, as the virus continued to spread across the country, the White House began taking the temperature of everyone entering the White House complex, and in April, it began administering rapid COVID-19 tests to all those in close proximity to the president, with staffers being tested about once a week.

On May 7, the White House announced that one of the president’s personal valets tested positive for the virus, followed a day later by a positive diagnosis for Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary.

By June, concerns at the White House had dissipated once again, with few staffers bothering with masks even as more and more people tested positive for the virus, including campaign staffers preparing for a Tulsa rally, Secret Service agents, Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who works for Trump’s campaign and is dating his eldest son.

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who attended the Tulsa rally, died six weeks later, though it’s unclear how he contracted the virus.

On Tuesday night at the debate in Cleveland, several Trump family members were seen not wearing masks despite the indoor setting.

The pandemic has hit world leaders along with everyone else, previously infecting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care, where he was given oxygen and watched around the clock by medical workers. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab took over from Johnson on an interim basis.

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