The president’s result came after he spent months playing down the severity of the outbreak that has killed more than 207,000 within the united states and hours after insisting that “the end of the pandemic is imminent.”
WASHINGTON — President Trump revealed early Friday morning that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the coronavirus, tossing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and increasing the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 Americans and shocked the economy.
Mr. Trump, who for months has played down the significance of the virus and hours earlier on Thursday night addressed an audience that “the end of the pandemic is in sight,” will quarantine within the White House for an unspecified period of time, forcing him to withdraw at least temporarily from the campaign trail only 32 days earlier from the election on Nov. 3.
The dramatic revelation came in a Twitter message just before 1 a.m. after a suspenseful evening following reports that Mr. Trump’s close adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive. In her tweet about a half-hour later, Mrs. Trump wrote that the first couple was “feeling good,” but the White House didn’t say whether or not they were experiencing symptoms. The president’s physician said he could perform his duties “without disruption” from the Executive Mansion.
Mr. Trump’s positive test result posed immediate challenges for the longer term of his campaign against previous vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, with only just a month until voting day. Even Mr. Trump, 74, rests asymptomatic, he will lose much of his remaining time on the campaign trail. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions on whether he should remain on the ballot at all.
The White House didn’t say how long Mr. Trump would need to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday phone call “on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors.” Appearances at rallies in Wisconsin on Saturday and in Arizona on Monday also appear bound to be scrapped, and therefore the next debate, scheduled for October 15 in Miami, was left up in the air.
During late-night conversations, aides to Mr. Trump were discussing whether he should give an address to the nation on Friday from the White House or find an alternative way for him to reassure the public. But the aides were still in a state of shock as they got the news, and there was no immediate word on how far the infection may have spread among senior White House officials, who generally don’t wear masks concerning the president’s disdain for them.
“The president and first lady are both well at this time, and that they decide to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, referred in a statement, adding: “Rest assured I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, I will keep you updated on any future developments.”
Other aides to the president wouldn’t say whether he was experiencing symptoms, but people at the White House noticed that his voice sounded raspy on Thursday, although it had been not clear that was abnormal for him, especially given the amount of campaign rallies he has been holding lately
Even if Mr. Trump doesn’t become seriously ill, the positive test could prove devastating to his political fortunes given his months of playing down the enormity of the pandemic even the virus was still ravaging the country and killing about 1,000 Americans a day. He has repeatedly predicted the virus was “going to disappear,” asserted that it had been under control, and insisted that the country was “rounding the corner” to the end of the crisis. He has scorned the recommendation of scientists, saying they were mistaken about the severity of circumstances.
For months, Mr. Trump has refused to wear a mask publicly on a couple of occasions and has repeatedly questioned their effectiveness. And as lately as Tuesday, at their opening debate, he mocked Mr. Biden for wearing one. “I don’t wear masks like him,” the president referred, his voice dripping with derision. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump had previously been infected by the virus at the time of the debate with Mr. Biden, 77, although the 2 stood far across the stage and never got within six feet of each other.
Trailing within the polls, the president in recent weeks has increasingly held crowded campaign events in defiance of public health procedures and sometimes state and local governments. When he accepted the nomination on the final day of the Republican National Convention, he invited over 1,000 supporters to the South Lawn of the White House and has held a variety of rallies around the country since, often with hundreds and even thousands of individuals jammed into tight spaces, many if not most without masks.
There is nobody closer to Mr. Trump than Ms. Hicks, who returned to the White House this year after parting her position as communications director in 2018, and on Wednesday traveled with the president on Air Force One to Minnesota. She began feeling sick about the time of the campaign rally he held there, according to one person familiar with the events, and was quarantined on the return flight to Washington, where she disembarked from the rear entrance of the plane…..
Her positive diagnosis came on Thursday. according to the person conversant in her case, but the White House made no statement about the situation, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, who had also been on the plane and exposed to Ms. Hicks, then held a briefing with reporters deprived of mentioning it or wearing a mask.
Only after Bloomberg News reported Ms. Hicks’s condition did Mr. Trump confirm it during an appearance on Thursday night on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, where he said he was expecting his test results.
The positive tests will undercut Mr. Trump’s effort to vary the subject of the campaign faraway from a pandemic that polls show most Americans believe he has mishandled and onto political terrain he considers more favorable. The president has sought to focus voter consideration instead on violence in cities, his Supreme Court nomination, mail-in ballots, and Mr. Biden’s relationship with liberals
Mr. Trump is the latest world leader to become infected with the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of England was so sick that he had to be hospitalized before later recovering.
Prince Charles similarly contracted the virus, as have the leaders of Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia.