US President Donald Trump said late on Thursday that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for Covid-19 and have been quarantined after a top aide tested positive for coronavirus, in a shock development that disrupts his scheduled public appearances in the crucial final weeks of the election campaign.
Trump’s positive test comes just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks came down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. 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 200,000 people nationwide. “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.
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
Trump announced late Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump were beginning a “quarantine process” after Hicks came down with the virus, though it wasn’t clear what that entailed. It can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test.
The diagnosis 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 even as cases continue to rise with less than four months before Election Day. And it stands as the most serious known public health scare encountered by any sitting American president in recent history.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday, Trump said he was awaiting results of a COVID-19 test. “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 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 on Wednesday, and aboard Air Force One to Tuesday night’s first presidential debate in Cleveland.
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. “I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he said told reporters back in May.
He has instead encouraged governors to reopen their states and tried to focus the nation’s attention on efforts to revive the economy — not a growing death toll — as he seeks another four-year term.
Some studies suggest COVID-19 patients who are obese may be at higher risk of being seriously sickened by the virus, although it’s unclear whether that’s because they are more likely to have other health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. In his 2019 physical, Trump met the technical threshold for obesity.
The news was sure to rattle an already shaken nation still grappling with how to safely reopen while avoiding further spikes. The White House has access to near-unlimited resources, including a constant supply of quick-result tests, and still failed to keep the president safe, raising questions about how the rest of the country will be able to protect its workers, students and the public as businesses and schools reopen.