President Donald Trump speaks at a Duluth airport hangar for a campaign rally on Sep. 30, 2020. Photo by Ricardo Lopez.
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in suburban Maryland late Friday afternoon, where White House officials said he is expected to stay for “the next few days” for treatment of COVID-19.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany described Trump, who disclosed his diagnosis earlier Friday, as having mild symptoms and “in good spirits,” and said that the hospital stay was recommended by his physician “out of an abundance of caution.”
The announcement of Trump’s hospital stay was among a series of stunning developments throughout Friday, rocking a contentious presidential election even as thousands of Americans already have cast their ballots.
Trump had announced his diagnosis just before 1 a.m. Friday on Twitter, posting that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive.
“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.
Late Thursday, Bloomberg News had reported that Hope Hicks, a close aide to Trump, had tested positive for the virus. Hicks had traveled to and from the presidential debate in Cleveland on Air Force One with Trump and also traveled to Minnesota with him, Bloomberg said.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared the debate stage with Trump on Tuesday, posted on Twitter Friday that he and his wife, Jill, tested negative for the virus. “Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern,” he said. “I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance and wash your hands.”
In addition, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the Bidens’ physician, issued a statement through the campaign. “Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” he said.
Earlier Biden wished the president and first lady a swift recovery.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of wearing a face mask and other safety precautions, contradicting top health officials in his administration, and is rarely seen wearing one as he presides over large rallies packed with maskless attendees.
At Tuesday’s debate, Trump said he wears one when he “needs to,” and derided Biden for routinely wearing a face covering. He has insisted that his approach is fine because those close to him are tested every day.
“We have a president who not only is on the job, will remain on the job,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who spoke without a mask, saying he tested negative. “I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tweeted that Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for the virus on Friday morning.
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, tweeted Friday that he, too, has tested positive for COVID-19. Lee had met on Tuesday with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and posted a photo on Twitter showing that meeting, in which neither of them were wearing masks.
The Washington Post reported that Barrett had COVID-19 earlier this year but has since recovered, and the White House said she tested negative on Friday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday morning that she was praying for the president and his family, adding that she hoped the “tragic” situation would prompt “a transition to a saner approach” to minimizing the risk of infection.
“Maybe now that people who see the president of the United States with all the protection that he has, and the First Lady, still having this exposure, it might be … a learning experience,” Pelosi said during an interview on MSNBC. “But more than learning, it has to be something that’s acted upon.”
Pelosi said she was tested Friday out of “an abundance of caution,” and the Capitol Office of the Attending Physician told her Friday afternoon the results were negative, her office tweeted. Her only contact with White House officials in recent days was negotiating over another coronavirus relief package with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who announced he had a negative test Friday morning.
A memo from Dr. Sean P. Conley, the president’s physician, said he received information on Thursday night that the president, who at 74 would be at high risk for complications from the virus, and Melania had tested positive for COVID-19.
“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 White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions,” he said. “Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments.”
On social media Friday morning, members of Congress from both parties reacted to Trump’s diagnosis, wishing him a quick recovery. Those who were in contact with Trump this week in D.C. and as he traveled to Ohio and Minnesota also weighed in with the precautions they planned to take.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who flew on Air Force One with the president to Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland, said during a Fox News interview Friday morning that he was only around the president briefly but would be tested.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who was with Trump for an event outside the White House on Monday, said he is not experiencing any symptoms but canceled his in-person events Friday and plans to take a test.
Jason Lewis, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Minnesota, who interacted with Trump during the president’s visit to the state Wednesday, said he also was self-quarantining and would be getting a test “as soon as possible.”
At the debate, Trump and Biden did not shake hands and stayed on opposite sides of the stage, which was in a large atrium on Case Western Reserve University’s campus.
Official safety precautions for that event, co-hosted by the Cleveland Clinic, largely focused on the audience, which was much smaller than usual for a presidential debate. The roughly 80 audience seats were spaced out from each other, and those seated had to test negative for coronavirus. Those in the audience could be seen wearing masks, with the exception of Trump’s family members and top aides.
A White House spokeswoman tweeted Friday morning that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who were both in the debate audience, tested negative Friday morning.
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