WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning development that came hours after he confirmed one of his longest-serving aides with whom he had recently traveled also received a positive test result.
The revelation had implications for the president’s health, the administration’s response to the pandemic and also the Nov. 3 election, during which Trump has leaned on states to reopen and has claimed that the nation is “turning the corner” on the virus.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Trump tweeted early Friday morning. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Former White House doctor Ronny Jackson told Fox News early Friday morning that Trump was asymptomatic and predicted the president would “weather this storm.”
“I will bet you that he does not develop symptoms, that he moves on and this does not become a big deal,” Jackson said.
The president has often claimed the U.S. has the pandemic “under control,” but his own positive test result – assuming it is accurate – is certain to raise questions about the reopening of schools and businesses when the virus could not be contained within the White House, arguably the most secure facility in the world.
Trump has dismissed concerns about those large campaign events, of which he hosted more than a dozen in September. He has also downplayed the importance of a face covering for himself, noting that he is regularly tested at the White House, and mocked Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“Well, so far we have had no problem whatsoever,” Trump said of the rallies during his debate Tuesday with Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “It’s outside – that’s a big difference according to the experts. And we do them outside, we have tremendous crowds, as you see.”
Trump, 74, was the latest world leader to test positive for COVID-19. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first major leader in March. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fell ill in July and had a series of positive tests. Both men recovered.
The president’s positive test is certain to become wrapped up in his own efforts to downplay the seriousness of the disease for months while holding rallies, fundraisers and other campaign events across the country, including in virus hot spots.
Trump recently appeared at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday. Before that, he traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday for the first presidential debate with Biden. Trump took part in a fundraiser and a roundtable in Bedminster, New Jersey, earlier in the day Thursday.
Vice President Mike Pence said he and his wife “send our love and prayers to our dear friends,” the President and First Lady, and “We join millions across America praying for their full and swift recovery.”
Trump has been found to generally be in good health in past annual physicals, though like many Americans he takes a statin drug designed to lower his cholesterol.
The results of his latest physical, announced in June, showed that he weighed 244 pounds, up from 243 last year. But his total cholesterol dropped to 167 from 196 last year. Trump’s blood pressure at the time was measured at 121 over 79.
White House physician Sean Conley confirmed the positive test result in a memo released by the White House shortly after the president’s tweet. Conley said both were “well at this time” and that they planned to “remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”
Conley said he and his team would “maintain a vigilant watch.”
“Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering,” Conley said.
The White House released an updated public schedule for the president early Friday in which his public events had been cancelled, including a planned rally in Florida. Trump maintained an event on his schedule, a midday phone call focused on COVID-19 with vulnerable seniors.
The president repeatedly asserted the U.S. outperformed other nations in confronting the disease, despite having the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.
More than 200,000 Americans have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Hope Hicks, one of the president’s longest-serving aides, accompanied Trump to one of those rallies this week, an event in Minnesota. She traveled with the president and several of his senior aides within the small confines of Marine One on Wednesday. A day later, Trump confirmed that Hicks had tested positive for the virus.
It’s not clear whether Trump contracted the virus from Hicks, but Trump told Fox News late Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump were receiving a test and said he would begin a period of quarantine. At that time, it was not clear how or even whether Trump intended to curtail public events he had planned for the rest of the week.
“Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible!” Trump tweeted Thursday. “The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!”
Several White House aides have tested positive in the past, including a top spokeswoman to Vice President Mike Pence, a Navy valet who was in the same room as the president on the day the person began experiencing symptoms.