Trump says 'I think I'm doing very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis, ahead of Walter Reed visit
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump was suffering “mild symptoms” of COVID-19, as the virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans spread to the highest reaches of the U.S. government just a month before the presidential election.
On Friday, Fox News reporter John Roberts announced that President Trump was expected to depart to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for precautionary tests and evaluation for the coronavirus.
President Trump confirmed his diagnosis on Friday in a video post on Twitter and thanked everyone for their "tremendous support."
"I think I'm doing very well, but we're going to make sure that things work out," Trump said. "The First Lady is doing very well."
Friday afternoon, Trump arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center.
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According to Trump's press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump will be staying at Walter Reed for the next few days out of "an abundance of caution."
On Friday, Trump's physician released a health update on the president.
"Following the PCR-confirmation of the President's diagnosis, as a precautionary measure, he received a single 8-gram dose of Regeneron's polyclonal antibody cocktail," the report read.
In addition, the president has been taking zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and daily aspirin, according to the report.
"As of this afternoon, the President remains fatigued but in good spirits," the memo said. "First Lady Melania Trump remains well with only a mild cough and headache."
The memo stated that the remainder of the First Family tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday.
Trump's son, Eric Trump reacted to the news on Twitter, asking those to join him in praying for the president's recovery.
Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump also acknowledged her dad's diagnois on Twitter.
The revelation came in a Trump tweet about 1 a.m. after he had returned from an afternoon political fundraiser without telling the crowd he had been exposed to an aide with the disease that has infected millions in America and killed more than a million people worldwide.
First lady Melania Trump also tested positive, the president said, 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.
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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.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and University of Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins all tested positive for the coronavirus nearly a week after visiting the White House.
They visited the White House on Saturday for President Donald Trump’s announcement that he had nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Lee tweeted a statement Friday morning saying that he was experiencing symptoms consistent with longtime allergies, but had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Lee wrote that he will remain in isolation for the next 10 days.
Tillis posted a confirmation of his positive result to Twitter.
"Thankfully, I have no symptoms and feel well. COVID is a very contagious virus," Tillis wrote.
Tillis added that he had tested negative for coronavirus when he had visited the White House on Saturday.
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, 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!”
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, even after having been exposed to Hicks.
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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 was considering how he might address the nation or otherwise communicate with the American people Friday, an official added.
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 a 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 just weeks before the election and puts his participation in the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, into doubt.
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.
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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.
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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 mask-less supporters.
“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May.
Questions remain about why Trump and his aides continued to come to work and travel after Hicks fell ill. Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday for the fundraiser, exposing attendees to the virus. Trump's social media director Dan Scavino and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who were originally set to join him on the trip, were replaced at the last minute by other aides.
But McEnany still briefed the press Thursday morning and made no mention of Hicks' suspected illness, raising anew concerns about White House transparency.
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 11: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to the White House residence as they exit Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on September 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump and the Fi
It is unclear where the Trumps and 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.
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.
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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.
Stephanie Weaver contributed to this story.