WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19, jolting a nation already rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and creating a political earthquake a month out from Election Day.
“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 wrote overnight on Twitter.
Trump was experiencing “mild” symptoms, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said during brief remarks late Friday morning.
Vice President Mike Pence, who would assume Trump’s responsibilities if he were incapacitated, tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday morning, according to his press secretary.
Other White House press aides said that Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who recently traveled with him, as well as his youngest son, Barron, all tested negative on Friday.
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, has “mild” symptoms, The New York Times and MSNBC reported Friday.
“I fully expect that as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will certainly have a positive test result,” Meadows said.
The White House sent out an updated Friday schedule for the president, which did not include a trip to Florida that had been on his previous schedule.
Trump’s Tweet early Friday came hours after reports that one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, had also tested positive.
Hicks attended the presidential debate Tuesday evening and also traveled with Trump on Wednesday aboard Air Force One to Minnesota.
Sean Conley, the president’s physician, in a statement released by the White House early Friday, confirmed the news that Trump and his wife had tested positive.
“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 wrote.
The physician added that he expected the president would “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.”
Melania Trump tweeted Friday morning that she and the president were “feeling good.”
“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.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s response Friday morning also came in a tweet: “Jill and I 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.”
The former vice president had shared a debate stage with Trump earlier this week, when the two men argued with each other for more than 90 minutes while neither wore a mask. The candidates did forgo a traditional pre-debate handshake and stood far apart on the stage.
Biden and his wife were expected to be tested Friday. Speculation early Friday immediately shifted to whether his campaign would continue as planned after Trump’s diagnosis.
Biden has made caution a hallmark of his campaign amid the pandemic this year, only recently taking regular campaign trips outside of his Delaware home.
Trump, 74, learned of Hicks’ diagnosis on Thursday evening, he told Fox News in a late night interview. “We spent a lot of time with Hope and others. So we’ll see what happens,” he said.
“It’s a tough kind of a situation. It’s a terrible thing. So I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens. I mean, who knows,” he said.
Other top White House aides have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent months, including a valet for Trump; Katie Miller, a top press aide to Vice President Mike Pence; and national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
Both Trump and Pence, with the election approaching, have increased their travel and attendance at crowded events with little social distancing and minimal use of masks, both indoors and outside.
“It’s very, very hard when you’re 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. And you get close, and things happen,” Trump said.
In July, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was being tested daily for the coronavirus. Trump said it was more like every other day.
Since that time, administration officials have declined to offer details on the president’s testing regimen.
The president in recent weeks has told Americans that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 207,000 people in the United States, is nearing its end, and that his administration would soon “defeat” the disease with a vaccine produced at record speed.
On Thursday night, in a taped message to the annual Al Smith Dinner, Trump offered a similar message.
“The end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country,” he said.
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