President Trump revealed early Friday morning that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 Americans and devastated the economy.
Mr Trump, who for months has played down the seriousness of the virus and hours earlier on Thursday night told an audience that “the end of the pandemic is in sight,” will quarantine in the White House for an unspecified period of time, forcing him to withdraw at least temporarily from the campaign trail only 32 days before the election on Nov. 3.
The dramatic disclosure 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 own tweet about 30 minutes later, Mrs Trump wrote that the first couple was “feeling good,” but the White House did not say whether they were experiencing symptoms. The president’s physician said he could carry out his duties “without disruption” from the Executive Mansion.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Mr Trump tweeted. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Mr Trump’s positive test result posed immediate challenges for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, with barely a month until Election Day. Even if Mr Trump, 74, remains asymptomatic, he will lose much of his remaining time on the campaign trail. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.
The White House did not say how long Mr Trump would have to remain isolated, but it cancelled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call “on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors.” Appearances at rallies in Wisconsin on Saturday and in Arizona on Monday also appear sure to be scrapped, and the next debate, scheduled for Oct. 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 some other way for him to reassure the public. But the aides were still in a state of shock as they absorbed the news, and there was no immediate word on how far the infection may have spread among senior White House officials, who generally do not wear masks in deference to the president’s disdain for them.
“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,” Dr Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, said in a statement, adding: “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.”