US President Donald Trump said late on Thursday that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19 and were quarantined in a shocking development that interrupted his planned public appearances in the critical final weeks of the election campaign after a top aide tested positive for coronavirus. Trump's positive test comes just hours after the White House revealed that after travelling with the president many times this week, senior aide Hope Hicks came down with the virus. Trump was last seen on Thursday evening by reporters returning to the White House and appeared to be in good health.
Trump is 74 years old, placing him at greater risk of severe complications from a virus that has already infected more than 200,000 individuals worldwide. Late Thursday, Trump declared that after Hicks came down with the virus, he and First Lady Melania Trump were launching a "quarantine process," although it was not clear what that entailed. An infection can take days to be detectable by a test. "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.
The diagnosis marks a huge blow for a president who has desperately sought to persuade the American public that they are behind the worst of the pandemic, even as cases begin to increase less than four months before Election Day. And it stands as the most serious documented public health scare faced in modern history by any sitting American president. COVID-19 symptoms may include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Just mild symptoms occur in most people. But certain patients, typically those with other medical problems, experience more severe symptoms that may be fatal, including pneumonia.
Trump said he was awaiting the results of the COVID-19 evaluation in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” he said, adding that first lady Melania Trump was also awaiting results. Hicks flew several times this week with the president, including on Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a Wednesday rally in Minnesota, and on board Air Force One to the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Even after White House employees and associates were exposed and sickened, Trump had repeatedly played down questions about being personally vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. "I didn't feel any vulnerability at all," he told reporters back in May. Instead, he urged governors to reopen their states and sought to concentrate the nation's attention on attempts to boost the economy as he seeks another four-year term, not an increasing death toll.
Some reports indicate that obese patients with COVID-19 could be at greater risk of becoming severely ill with the virus, but it is unclear if it is because they are more likely to have other health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes. The technical criteria for obesity was reached by Trump in his 2019 physical. The news was sure to rattle an already rattled country that was still dealing with how to reopen safely while preventing more spikes. The White House has access to near-unlimited tools, including a continuous supply of quick-result assessments, and has yet struggled to keep the president safe, raising concerns about how the rest of the government will protect its staff , students and the public as companies and schools reopen.
Since two individuals working at the White House complex tested positive in early May, Trump, the vice president and other senior workers were tested regularly for COVID-19, causing the White House to step up precautions. Anyone who comes into contact with the president also receives a quick-result examination. But experts have challenged the health and safety procedures at the White House since the early days of the pandemic and wondered why anything was not being done to protect the chief commander. Even after public health authorities cautioned against it, Trump proceeded to shake hands with tourists and he initially opposed being examined. He was reluctant to practise the social distancing rules of his own administration for fear of appearing vulnerable, including refusing to wear a mask in public under almost all circumstances.
In early March, when at least three individuals who later tested positive came near to the president at his private Florida party, the White House received its first COVID-19 scare. That included members of the delegation of the Brazilian President, including the Brazilian chargé d'affaires, who had been sitting at Trump's dinner table. The White House began taking the temperature of everyone entering the White House complex in mid-March, as the virus continued to spread across the country, and in April, it started administering rapid COVID-19 tests to all those in close proximity to the president, with staff being screened about once a week. The repeated tests gave some workers the false impression that the complex was protected from the virus, and few adopted suggested safety precautions, including wearing masks, as a consequence. But the bubble burst then.
While there is currently no proof that Trump is severely ill, the positive test also poses concerns about what will happen if, due to illness, he were to become disabled. The 25th Amendment of the Constitution sets out the processes by which a president may find himself "unable to exercise the powers and obligations" of the presidency. If he were to make that call, Trump will send a written note to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, President pro tempore of the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pence will serve as acting president until "a formal statement to the contrary" was transmitted by Trump.
The vice president can also appoint a president who is unable to exercise the powers of either the Cabinet or any other legislative body. and duties of his office, in which case Pence will "immediately assume as Acting President the powers and duties of the office" before Trump could provide a written clarification to the contrary.