President Donald Trump is being taken by helicopter to Walter Reed Military Medical Center early Friday evening and will spend the “next few days” there, the White House said after Trump announced earlier in the day that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the visit to the hospital was “out of an abundance of caution.”
“President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day,” McEnany said.
Sean Conley, the president’s physician, said in a statement before the trip to Walter Reed that Trump was “fatigued but in good spirits.“
In a memo released by the White House, Conley said that the president had completed an infusion of monoclonal antibodies produced by Regeneron, and was taking other medication, including aspirin, zinc and vitamin D. It made no mention of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial that Trump frequently promoted — and took himself for two weeks as a precautionary measure earlier this year.
First lady Melania Trump is displaying “only a mild cough and headache,” Conley’s memo states. The doctor also wrote that the rest of Trump’s family tested negative Friday and that the pair are being advised by a team of experts about their next steps.
Earlier in the day, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the president was experiencing “mild symptoms,” and refused to say whether he withheld information about a top aide to the president also testing positive in recent days.
The remarks from the president’s most senior staffer came after Trump announced on Twitter early Friday that he and the first lady had become infected 32 days ahead of the November election. Just hours before Trump’s tweet, news broke that Hope Hicks, a counselor to the president, had come down with the disease, as well.
“The president does have mild symptoms. And as we look to try to make sure that not only his health and safety and welfare is good, we continue to look at that for all of the American people,” Meadows told reporters Friday morning outside the White House.
The president and the first lady “remain in good spirits,” Meadows said, and Trump is “very energetic.” Physicians with the White House medical unit “continue to monitor both his health and the health of the first lady,” Meadows said.
Trump had tweeted early Friday that he and the first lady “will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately.” Physician to the president Sean Conley wrote in a memo that the president and the first lady were “both well,” and that Trump would “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.”
Conley did not say whether Trump was exhibiting any symptoms, but a person familiar with the situation said the president was asymptomatic as of Thursday.
Still, Vice President Mike Pence may need to step in to perform some tasks if Trump is confined to the White House grounds, the person said. Pence’s office announced Friday that he and second lady Karen Pence had tested negative for Covid-19.
The president’s positive test threatens to transform the final month of a turbulent campaign that has seen Trump tout his administration’s management of the pandemic as a success — despite surging case counts in parts of the country, shuttered schools and businesses, and widespread division over the seriousness of the disease.
“I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country,” Trump said Thursday evening in a prerecorded message to the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
Compounding the uncertainty surrounding the homestretch of the campaign, the Republican National Committee announced Friday that chair Ronna McDaniel also had tested positive for Covid-19.
For Republicans, McDaniel’s diagnosis now means that their presidential nominee and top party official could both be constrained to a limited campaign schedule in the coming weeks.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien announced that all previously scheduled campaign events involving the president “are in the process of being moved to virtual events or are being temporarily postponed.”
Planned events featuring members of Trump’s family “are also being temporarily postponed,” Stepien said, while Pence “plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events.”
Trump’s tweet immediately raised questions about whether the 74-year-old’s existing health conditions — his latest physician’s report recorded him as technically obese — will put him at an increased risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus.
During his last physical, Conley reported that the president “remains in very good health overall,” with a cholesterol level and blood pressure within normal ranges. Trump does, however, take medication for prior issues with high cholesterol.
Earlier this year, Trump was closely monitored in case he developed an irregular heartbeat while he took a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug he promoted as a possible treatment for the coronavirus despite no conclusive evidence of its efficacy.
Melania Trump, 50, also falls within an age range with high risk of coronavirus-related complications. The disease can have wide-ranging effects on different people, even at advanced age — from relatively mild symptoms to devastating breathing problems.
It is unclear whether Trump caught the coronavirus directly from Hicks, who had traveled with him Tuesday for his debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Cleveland.
Hicks showed symptoms and received her test result early Thursday, but few people in the White House knew about her diagnosis until later in the afternoon, according to the person familiar with the situation.
Hicks was seen traveling Tuesday on Air Force One without a mask, and she accompanied the president Wednesday to his rally in Minnesota.
Only a small group of White House officials were aware of Hicks’ positive test Thursday morning, but news spread to more aides inside the West Wing later in the day.
Still, business at the White House continued as usual. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a briefing in the late morning. And in the afternoon, the president flew to his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for a fundraising round table and reception with high-dollar donors.
Trump traveled with a smaller group of aides for the short trip, including White House Presidential Personnel Office director John McEntee and deputy press secretary Judd Deere.
Meadows told reporters Friday that several “core staff” at the White House had already received negative Covid-19 test results, including senior adviser Jared Kushner and deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino.
“At the same time,” Meadows said, “I fully expect that as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will certainly have a positive test result. And we’ve got the mitigation plan in place to make sure that the government not only continues to move forward, but the work of the American people continues to move forward.”
Pressed on when he found out about Hicks testing positive — and whether he concealed the news of her diagnosis until after Trump’s fundraiser — Meadows said he was “not going to get into the tick-tock” of events.
“I can tell you, in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as Marine One was taking off yesterday,” Meadows said. “We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and in close contact.”
Meadows said the news of Hicks testing positive began trickling out because “we had already started the contact tracing just prior to” Trump’s fundraiser.
As for Trump’s positive test, “last night — even in the early hours of this morning — the minute we got a confirmatory test on the president, we felt like it was important to get the news out there at that time,” Meadows said.
The White House canceled the president’s travel plans minutes after Trump’s tweet. He had been scheduled to travel to Florida for a rally Friday night.
Asked when Trump learned of Hicks testing positive, McEnany also deflected. “I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not going to get into an exact timeline. But it’s safe to say the president took precautions,” she told Fox News in an interview.
Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney predicted Friday in an interview on Fox Business that Trump would stay in the White House’s executive residence for the time being, and insisted that “it’s completely possible … to run the government under these circumstances.”
Mulvaney cited the close proximity between the executive residence and the West Wing, and said that although Trump will “have limited contact” with people other than his physician, he will be “in constant communication with the rest of the team.”
But Mulvaney also said it was “important … that the president be visible” as he works remotely, suggesting that “he be on the phone, that he be on television, that he gets out on the Truman Balcony, if he can. Because I think it’s important that people see him and know that he is there.”
Discussing the possibility of a national address, McEnany said she would not “confirm exactly what you’ll see from” Trump, but said the White House was “exploring a number of different ways” for the president to communicate with Americans.
McEnany also declined to elaborate on whether Trump would participate in the next presidential debate on Oct. 15, which falls within his recommended quarantine window.
“We haven’t gotten that far just yet. This morning and this afternoon, we’re focused on the president,” she said.
McEnany said the president had spoken Friday with Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), key players in the ongoing Supreme Court confirmation fight. Trump also talked to Meadows about emergency declarations and stimulus legislation, she said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News in an interview Friday that Trump was “doing just fine” and only had a “very moderate case” of the coronavirus.
“The president was kind of barking out orders for all of us, giving us tasks this morning to follow through [on],” Kudlow said, before acknowledging that he had not spoken to Trump since Thursday evening.
Just how long the president will be confined to the executive residence is an open question. The White House has required other officials who tested positive for Covid-19 to go a week without symptoms and log two negative test results before returning to work.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who has the coronavirus should self-isolate and “separate themselves from others by staying in a specific ‘sick room’ or area.”
For symptomatic individuals, the agency recommends staying isolated until 10 days after symptoms first appear, and at least a full day after a fever has died down and other symptoms are improving.
For asymptomatic individuals, it recommends simply waiting until 10 days have passed since the date of the positive test.
The president has been widely criticized for his dismissive remarks about the coronavirus in the outbreak’s early stages and at other points throughout the year.
In February, he told the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in February that he was “playing … down” the disease even though it was possibly five times “more deadly” than the flu. Publicly, however, Trump compared Covid-19 to the flu and assured the public that, “like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Trump has faced similar rebukes for his cavalier attitude toward coronavirus precautions. His campaign rallies often feature large crowds of supporters tightly packed together and not wearing face coverings.
He also has resumed indoor campaign events, even though public health officials advise crowding in enclosed spaces. During his Republican National Convention acceptance speech in August, roughly 1,500 attendees gathered on the White House lawn, many without masks.
Trump has vacillated on his stated support for basic coronavirus safety guidelines, such as mask-wearing when in public and around other people, and has railed against mask mandates issued by state and local officials. At the debate this week, Trump even mocked Biden for wearing masks so often.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Multiple members of the president’s entourage declined to wear masks during the debate, despite requests from the staff of the Cleveland Clinic, which was hosting the event.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was at the White House last weekend to advise the president in debate preparations, said Friday in an interview on ABC News that he and others working with Trump did not wear masks.
As news reports swirled Thursday night about Hicks’ diagnosis, the president expressed sympathy for her during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity and said that he and the first lady had been tested Covid-19. “We‘ll see what happens, but who knows?“ Trump said.
Trump also said that members of the military and law enforcement often want to “hug you, and they want to kiss you, because we really have done a good job for them.” He said it is difficult to turn them down and that Hicks receives them warmly.
Prior to her current role, Hicks served as White House communications director and on the press team of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Trump’s infection is the latest piece of evidence that the coronavirus does not spare the powerful. Numerous world leaders have contracted the disease.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent three nights in intensive care in April after he contracted Covid-19 and experienced trouble breathing. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also tested positive in July.
The coronavirus has infiltrated other elite political circles. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife tested positive after attending a large event in London.
Elsewhere, the Australian home affairs minister and Iran’s deputy health minister were just two of numerous international government officials who have been infected since the pandemic’s outbreak.
Still, Trump’s diagnosis will raise serious questions about whether the White House’s coronavirus protocols were adequate — and whether the West Wing took the threat of the virus seriously enough.
Hicks is one of Trump’s most high-ranking aides to have tested positive for the virus. National security adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive in July, as did a number of Secret Service agents.
After the earlier diagnoses of Miller and a military valet, the White House increased the frequency of its testing of the president, the vice president and their top aides.
The White House press office said staffers also regularly deep-cleaned workspaces and conducted regular temperature checks of anyone around the president.
McEnany said in July that Trump is tested as many as “multiple times a day” for the coronavirus, and White House staffers were notified in August that they would be subject to random Covid-19 screenings.
In a statement Thursday night, Deere said that “White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is traveling.”
Deere added that Trump “takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously.”
Daniel Lippman and David Lim contributed to this report.