WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump announced on Friday (Oct 2) that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for Covid-19, a sign that the virus that has infected 7.5 million Americans so far has made its way into the highest levels of government, as it did in other countries earlier this year.
Both are well and plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence, with Mr Trump expected to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, said the President’s physician Sean Conley in a memorandum.
“Tonight, (First Lady Melania Trump) and I tested positive for Covid-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter just before 1am (1pm Singapore time).
Half an hour later, Mrs Trump followed up with her own post on Twitter, writing: “As too many Americans have done this year, (President Trump) and I are quarantining at home after testing positive for Covid-19.
“We are feeling good and I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe and we will all get through this together,” she said.
The early morning revelation sent the White House and national media scrambling to react. The White House released Dr Conley’s memorandum, while Vice-President Mike Pence and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany wished Mr Trump well on Twitter.
The President’s public schedule was updated to show that several events on his calendar for Friday had been cancelled, including a roundtable with supporters at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC and a campaign rally in Sanford, Florida.
Mr Trump was still due to host a phone call on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors at midday on Friday.
National media outlets raised a flurry of questions about the extent to which key political figures and White House staff and their contacts had been exposed to the virus, whether there would be possible disruptions to the election cycle, and even lines of succession should the President and Vice-President be medically incapacitated.
The President’s diagnosis was announced hours after news broke that his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for the virus.
Ms Hicks, a former White House communications director, was seen not wearing a mask when travelling with the President on Air Force One to and from a Minnesota campaign rally on Wednesday.
Mr Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans, giving mixed messages about the necessity of wearing masks to slow the spread of the disease.
As recently as Thursday night, he told supporters at a dinner that a vaccine was on track to be distributed before the end of the year and that “the end of the pandemic is in sight”.
With the President in quarantine, his upcoming in-person events will, in all likelihood, be cancelled, an unexpected turn of events barely a month before the election on Nov 3.
Apart from rallies on the campaign trail, Mr Trump was due to meet Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Oct 15 in Miami, Florida and Oct 22 in Nashville, Tennessee for the second and third presidential debates.
Several other world leaders have tested positive for Covid-19, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Mr Trump, 74, falls within the age cohort most vulnerable to serious cases of the virus.
The White House said in June this year that his annual physical indicated he was healthy, although observers noted that his height of 1.9m and weight of 110.7kg at the time put him over the medical threshold for obesity.
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