President Donald Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday as a "precautionary measure" and was expected to remain there for a few days following a positive coronavirus test. The president's COVID-19 diagnosis threw a contentious 2020 election campaign into further disarray.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said earlier in the day that Trump was experiencing mild effects of the coronavirus after he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for it.
“The president does have mild symptoms and as we look to try to make sure that not only his health and safety and welfare is good, we continue to look at that for all of the American people,” Meadows said as he spoke to reporters at the White House.
Trump's chief of staff said the president is “not only in good spirits, but very energetic” and remains “committed to working very hard on behalf of the American people.”
In the early morning hours on Friday (04:54 UTC), 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!”
Minutes later, the White House released a memorandum from the 74-year-old president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, confirming the positive tests for the Trumps.
“The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” Conley said.
He added that he expects the president “to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you posted on any future developments.”
Melania Trump later tweeted, “As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.”
As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 2, 2020
In another tweet, Mrs. Trump acknowledged she also had “mild symptoms but overall feeling good.”
Thank you for the love you are sending our way. I have mild symptoms but overall feeling good. I am looking forward to a speedy recovery.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 2, 2020
All of Trump’s political events for the near future were quickly ordered canceled, according to a White House official.
The news immediately caused U.S. stock futures to plunge and potentially puts Trump’s presidential campaign into hiatus, barely a month before the election against former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads in the national polls.
Trump, who for months has played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, on Thursday evening confirmed during a telephone interview on the Fox News Channel that he and the first lady had been tested after one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, was confirmed to be infected.
Hicks, counselor to the president, traveled with Trump to Pennsylvania for a campaign rally on Saturday, then to Cleveland for the presidential debate on Tuesday and to Minnesota for campaign events the following day.
Hicks was showing symptoms at a political rally Wednesday evening in Duluth, Minnesota, and tested positive Thursday morning, according to officials who spoke on condition of not being named.
Trump on Thursday, however, along with some top officials, flew to New Jersey for a political fundraising event where he was in close contact with dozens of other people.
During the telephone interview with Fox News show host Sean Hannity, the president suggested Hicks could have contracted the virus from members of the military or law enforcement.
“It is 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 because we really have done a good job for them,” said Trump. “You get close, and things happen. I was surprised to hear with Hope, but she is a very warm person with them. She knows there’s a risk, but she is young.”
The president, however, in the eighth decade of his life, is in a high-risk category for the coronavirus, but is otherwise believed to be in good health.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, tested negative for COVID-19 early Friday, according to spokesman Devin O’Malley. The spokesman said Pence “remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday he and his wife, Susan Pompeo, also tested negative.
Pompeo said he and his wife were examined on an airplane 20 minutes before landing in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The country’s top diplomat told reporters upon arrival that he last saw Trump on September 15 at the White House and said, “We are praying for the president and First Lady that they’ll have a speedy recovery.”
An unnamed senior White House official told Reuters that Trump, Pence and their staffs will work in separate facilities to safeguard the vice president if he is forced to assume presidential responsibilities if Trump’s condition deteriorates.
“What we have done out of an abundance of caution, we have separated the VP and the president … we separated the staffs, in case something happens,” the official said.
Also Friday, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah tweeted that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain isolated for the next 10 days.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who debated Trump in person late Tuesday in Cleveland, tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday, his primary care physician, Dr. Kevin O’ Connor, said in a statement.
Nearly 7.3 million people in the United States have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 208,000 have died – the most reported by any country, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Wayne Lee and Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.