WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said late Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER,” he wrote.
Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
Hours before, President Trump had tweeted that he and Melania were beginning a “quarantine process” as they await coronavirus test results after a top aide he spent substantial time with this week tested positive for COVID-19.
Hope Hicks, one of the president's most trusted and longest-serving confidantes, began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota 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, who serves as counselor to the president, also accompanied him and other senior aides to the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday. She is the closest White House official to Trump to test positive for the virus so far.
“Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible!” Trump tweeted. “The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!”
Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
It can take days though, for an infection to take hold and be detectable in a nasal or throat swab, and it was unclear what Trump's quarantine would entail. Minutes before his tweet, the White House distributed a schedule for Friday that showed he planned to go forward with a fundraiser at his Washington, D.C., hotel and a political rally in Sanford, Florida.
Earlier, during a call-in interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Trump appeared unsure about his next moves, saying, “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know. I just went for a test and we’ll see what happens.”
The positive test is yet another reminder that the coronavirus continues to spread, even as Trump has tried desperately to suggest it no longer poses a danger. Since it emerged earlier this year, Trump, the White House and his campaign have played down the threat and refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing. Instead, Trump has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of supporters. The virus has killed more than 200,000 Americans and infected more than 7 million nationwide.
The White House had not responded earlier to multiple questions about the last time Trump was tested and whether he and other staffers who spent time with Hicks in recent days will be asked to quarantine.
Questions also remain about why the White House didn't take action sooner. Trump traveled to New Jersey Thursday for a fundraiser despite concerns about Hicks' health.
Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from the virus. He said he expected to have the results back either Thursday night or Friday morning.
In a statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said the president "takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously.”
“White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is traveling,” Deere said.
It is unclear where Hicks may have caught the virus, but in his Fox interview, Trump seemed to suggest it may have been spread by someone in the military or law enforcement.
“It’s very, very hard when you are with people from the military or from law enforcement and they come over to you and they want to hug you and they want to kiss you," he said, “because we really have done a good job for ’em. And you get close. And things happen.”
Hicks traveled with the president multiple times this week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota Wednesday as well as Tuesday night's first presidential debate in Cleveland.
Hicks is one of the president's most trusted and longest-serving aides, having worked as spokesperson for his 2016 campaign. She originally served as White House as communications director, and re-joined the administration this year as an adviser ahead of the election. Her positive test was first reported by Bloomberg News on Thursday evening. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Multiple White House staffers have tested positive for the virus, including Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, national security adviser Robert O'Brien, and one of the president's personal valets. Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is dating Trump’s oldest son and works for Trump’s campaign, tested positive in South Dakota before an Independence Day fireworks show at Mount Rushmore.
Still, Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. “I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May.
After earlier positive cases close to the president, the White House instituted a daily testing regimen for the president’s senior aides. Anyone who will be in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days, White House staffers are considered essential workers. CDC's guidelines for exposed essential workers allows them to return to work if they take precautions, including taking their temperature before going into work, wearing a mask at all times and practicing social distancing.
Typically, according to the CDC, a person develops symptoms five days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary.