President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for Covid-19.
Trump announced the news via Twitter at just before 10 p.m. Thursday night. Dr. Sean P. Conley, the president’s physician, confirmed the test results in an official memo issued by the White House Thursday.
The president and first lady were tested after it was discovered earlier Thursday that trusted Trump advisor Hope Hicks had contracted the virus and had shown signs of illness. Hicks has traveled with and been in tight quarters with Trump in recent weeks and days.
A broad scope of White House staff, advisors, legislators and campaign surrogates may have been exposed to Hicks, including several whom she also traveled with in confined spaces while contagious. According to a NBC News accounting, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. are among key figures who had recent close contact with Hicks.
Melania Trump said via Twitter last night that both she and the president were “feeling good” and had “postponed all upcoming engagements.” However, she again Tweeted Friday morning and said she was experiencing “mild symptoms but overall feeling good.”
Vice President Mike Pence — who recently met with Meadows, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett — has so far tested negative, according to a Twitter message issued by Press Secretary Devin O’Malley Friday morning. O’Malley said the vice president is tested daily, “as has been routine for months.” Second Lady Karen Pence has also tested negative.
After news broke of Trump’s test result, concern grew through the night about the status of former Vice President Joe Biden, who shared a debate stage with Trump Tuesday night. It was reported Friday morning that Biden and his wife Jill have tested negative, according to Dr. Kevin O’Connor in a statement shared by Biden’s campaign Friday morning.
It is unclear if Biden will continue his scheduled campaign activities and if he will travel to Michigan later in the day as scheduled.
The candidates were physically distanced but did not wear masks on stage.
In that same debate, the president mocked Biden’s use of masks.
Since Tuesday, Trump spoke at a rally in Minnesota, which Hicks also attended, and at a fundraising event hosted at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. There’s concern for supporters, staff, security detail and press who were in close proximity to the president and Hicks and may have been exposed to the virus in the course of the past few days.
It’s expected of the White House to conduct robust contact tracing, which will be no small feat given the volume of close contacts. Many of those who surround Trump have rejected mask use, but it’s worth noting that Hicks is one of few in Trump’s immediate orbit who often — not always — wears masks and observes distance guidelines.
There is no indication at this time that the president himself is experiencing symptoms, though Trump being 74 years old, overweight with “elevated blood pressure” puts him at higher risk of serious illness.
According to John Hopkins University as of Friday morning, more than 208,000 people have died in the U.S. as a result of Covid-19 — the virus has claimed the lives of more than a million people worldwide.
Spiked with speculation and myriad conspiracy theories, social media was largely swarmed Thursday night with well wishes and prayers for the president and first lady.
The developing news will impact how Trump handles campaign activities and the two remaining scheduled debates — its not yet known if upcoming debates will be canceled or shifted to a virtual format.
The question extends to the vice presidential debate as well.
There are 32 days left until the election — early voting is already underway in some states.
If Trump falls ill and cannot perform his duties, Pence would assume responsibility under the 25th Amendment. In the unlikely event both the president and vice president are incapacitated, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is third in succession.