The Associated Press
Updated: October 03, 2020 11:01 AM
Created: October 02, 2020 12:13 AM
President Donald Trump will spend a “few days” at a military hospital after contracting COVID-19, the White House said Friday.
Trump was to depart the White House by helicopter late Friday for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a White House official said. The official said the visit was precautionary and that Trump would work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to continue his official duties.
Friday afternoon, Trump's physician, Sean Conley, D.O., released a statement saying the president received a dose of Regeneron's polyclonal antibody cocktail via an infusion as a precaution. The president has also been taking other over-the-counter medications including zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and daily aspirin. The doctor says Trump is fatigued, but in good spirits and a team of experts is evaluating both the president and first lady to determine next steps.
The report also stated the first lady was exhibiting a mild cough and headache but remained well, otherwise. The report concluded by saying other members of the first family received negative COVID-19 tests on Friday.
Just a month before the presidential election, the revelation came in a Trump tweet about 1 a.m. after he had returned from an afternoon political fundraiser. He had gone ahead, saying nothing to the crowd though knowing he had been exposed to an aide with the disease that has infected millions in America and killed more than a million people worldwide.
The president's positive COVID test came one day after he made whirlwind visit to Minnesota and came in contact with several prominent Minnesota politicians and supporters in the business community. When he stepped off Air Force One Wednesday afternoon he was greeted by Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt. The president kept a distance of six feet or so from them other then briefly posing for pictures.
Daudt says he and everyone who greeted the president on the tarmac had to have negative COVID tests within 24 hours of the president's arrival.
"The White House has pretty strict requirements before you're going to be anywhere close to the president," Daudt said. Although he tested negative on Wednesday, Daudt went in for another test on Friday.
"I think the chances of my being exposed are probably very, very little, but the reality as little as they may be they still exist," Daudt told 5 Eyewitness News. "And for that reason I think I need to take the precautions that ensure the safety of others I might come in contact with and we certainly want to make sure everybody is safe."
The president also attended a private fundraiser at the home of Cambria CEO Marty Davis after leaving the airport and before traveling to a rally in Duluth.
Two sources who attended the event say strict safety measures were in place. The approximately 50 guests and 20 catering staff all received rapid COVID tests just before the event. The president didn't shake any hands. When he posed for pictures the guests were 8 to 10 feet away as a campaign photographer took the photos. After posing for pictures for about 25 minutes, sources say he spoke for just under an hour from a podium that was 12 feet from the nearest table.
"He was in a bubble within a bubble," one source told 5 Eyewitness News.
We've also obtained an e-mail sent to attendees informing them of the president's positive test result.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we want to call this to your attention," the e-mail from the "Trump Victory" campaign said. "Please be reminded that due to Trump Victory-protocol, no attendees were allowed within 6 feet of President Trump at the event."
The e-mail did not tell them to get tested, but did urge them to "contact your medical provider if you or any of your loved ones is ill or develops a fever, shortness of breat, or other respiratory symptoms."
Three Minnesota Republican Congressmen who flew with President Trump on Air Force One Wednesday all tested negative before boarding the flight. Congressmen Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn also were tested Friday morning after learning of the president's situation and again they had negative results.
First lady Melania Trump also tested positive and several others in the White House have, too, prompting concern that the White House or even Trump himself might have spread the virus further. The Trumps' son Barron, who lives at the White House, tested negative.
Trump has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of the virus, rarely wearing a protective mask and urging states and cities to “reopen” and reduce or eliminate shutdown rules.
Both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have tested negative, their campaign said. Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus Friday morning and “remains in good health,” his spokesman said.
Biden tweeted regarding the hospitalization:
This cannot be a partisan moment.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 2, 2020
It must be an American moment.
We have to come together as a nation.
Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was with him and many others on Saturday and has been on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, also tested negative, the White House said.
Trump's diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus has spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled with him during the week had tested positive.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately," Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. "We will get through this TOGETHER!”
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
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
While House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Friday tried to assure the public that Trump was conducting business as usual, even as he confirmed that the White House knew Hope Hicks, the aide, had tested positive before Trump attended a Thursday fundraiser in New Jersey.
“I can tell you in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as Marine One was taking off yesterday,” said Meadows. Several staffers were pulled from the trip, but Trump did not cancel and there was no direct evidence that her illness was connected to his.
Testing progress among federal officials
Many White House and senior administration officials were undergoing tests Friday, but the full scale of the outbreak around the president may not be known for some time as it can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test. Officials with the White House Medical Unit were tracing the president's contacts.
Trump's reelection campaign said it was putting on hold all events featuring Trump and members of his family but that Pence would resume campaigning since he tested negative.
Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear ill. He is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide.
The president’s physician said in a memo that Trump and the first lady, who is 50, “are both well at this time” and “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”
Trump has been trying all year to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. In the best of cases, if he develops few symptoms, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble, it will likely force him off the campaign trail and puts his participation in the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, into doubt.
Presidential COVID-19 diagnosis
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware citing concern about the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.
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“I don’t wear masks like him," Trump said of Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
In a tweet Friday morning, Biden said he and his wife “send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”
World leaders offered the president and first family their best wishes after their diagnosis, as governments used their case as a reminder for their citizens to wear masks and practice social distancing measures.
Trump's announcement came hours after he confirmed that Hicks, one of his most trusted and longest-serving aides, had been diagnosed with the virus Thursday. Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota on 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, the person said.
Hicks had been with Trump and other senior staff aboard Marine One and Air Force One en route to that rally and had accompanied the president to Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, along with members of the Trump family. The Trump contingent removed their masks during the debate, in violation of the venue rules.
Multiple White House staffers have previously tested positive for the virus, including Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and one of the president’s personal valets. An RNC official confirmed Friday that Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel learned she had tested positive Wednesday afternoon. She has been at her home in Michigan since last Saturday and did not attend the debate.
But Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable. He has mostly refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing face coverings in public and practicing social distancing. Instead, he has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of often maskless supporters.
“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May.
As for Trump's attendance at Thursday's fundraiser, press secretary Kalleigh McEnany said, “He socially distanced. It was an outdoor event, and it was deemed safe by White House Operations for him to attend that event.”
Questions remain about why it took so long for Trump to be tested and why he and his aides continued to come to work and travel after Hicks fell ill. Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser, exposing attendees to the virus.
McEnany and Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino, who were originally set to join him on the trip, were replaced at the last minute by other aides. McEnany briefed the press Thursday morning and made no mention of any suspected illness, raising anew concern about White House transparency.
It is unclear where the Trumps or Hicks may have caught the virus, but in a Fox interview, Trump seemed to suggest it may have been spread by someone in the military or law enforcement in greetings.
“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 them. And you get close. And things happen.”
The White House began instituting a daily testing regimen for the president’s senior aides after earlier positive cases close to the president. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.
Yet since the early days of the pandemic, experts have questioned the health and safety protocols at the White House and asked why more wasn’t being done to protect the commander in chief. Trump continued to shake hands with visitors long after public health officials were warning against it and he initially resisted being tested.
Trump is far from the first world leader to test positive for the virus, which previously infected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized last month while fighting what he called a “hellish” case of COVID-19.
While there is currently no evidence that Trump is seriously ill, the positive test raises questions about what would happen if he were to become incapacitated due to illness.
The Constitution’s 25th Amendment spells out the procedures under which a president can declare themselves “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the presidency. If he were to make that call, Trump would transmit a written note to the Senate president pro tempore, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pence would serve as acting president until Trump transmitted “a written declaration to the contrary.”
The vice president and a majority of either the Cabinet or another body established by law, can also declare the president unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, in which case Pence would “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President” until Trump could provide a written declaration to the contrary.
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