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President Trump And First Lady Test Positive For COVID-19

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House Tuesday for the first televised presidential debate. The president announced early Friday that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus. [The Washington Post via Getty Images]
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House Tuesday for the first televised presidential debate. The president announced early Friday that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Updated at 5:20 a.m. ET

The country was thrown on edge overnight as President Donald Trump announced that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that throws the final stretch of the presidential campaign — already radically upended by the global pandemic — even further into unknown territory.

Trump plans to continue carrying out his duties, but is expected to remain home for two weeks, canceling campaign events as doctors watch him at the White House.

Trump is 74, an age that makes him more vulnerable to the disease. The White House physician says the president and first lady, who's 50, "are both well at this time."

The news came after midnight, by tweet. Only hours earlier, the president had told his friend Sean Hannity in an interview on Fox News that he and Melania Trump had begun "a quarantine process" after White House adviser Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus. Hicks is one of the president's closest aides.

In the tweet, the president said: "Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!"

Global financial markets declined as the news of Trump's diagnosis spread.

In a memo dated Oct. 1, White House physician Sean Conley confirmed that Trump and his wife had tested positive for the virus on Thursday.

"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," he said. He added that he and the White House team will maintain a "vigilant watch" over the Trumps.

Melania Trump tweeted that she and her husband were "feeling good," but have canceled their upcoming public events.

The president had a campaign rally planned for Florida on Friday and two in Wisconsin, which is seeing a spike of cases, on Saturday.

A White House official told NPR's Tamara Keith that the president was in good spirits, and his staff were working out how to run things during the next 14 days — the possible length of a presidential quarantine.

"He's fine now. He's in good spirits. He'll be OK, the doctor's optimistic. He'll get treatment. We're in a pretty good place to treat this," the official said.

"From a continuity standpoint — listen, we'll be fine, we'll figure out a way to do it," the official said. "The vice president can step in where he needs to. The president is obviously going to want to be very engaged — and he will be. As you know, he's not one to sit still."

Members of Vice President Pence's team did not immediately respond when asked about the last time Pence was tested for coronavirus. Pence did tweet his "love and prayers" to the president and first lady, but did not mention his own health.

Aides tested regularly

Pence and White House aides are tested for the virus regularly; some, like White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, are tested daily.

White House adviser Hicks, who tested positive for the virus, would have also been tested on a regular basis. Hicks traveled with Trump on Air Force One both to Tuesday night's debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden and to a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.

In recent days, Hicks has been seen in close quarters with top White House officials including Meadows, top aides Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller, campaign manager Bill Stepien and campaign aide Jason Miller, and Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

Although COVID-19 has claimed more than 207,000 lives, many people who become infected by the virus show only mild symptoms, or none whatsoever.

Speaking to Fox News' Hannity on Thursday evening, Trump confirmed that Hicks "did test positive" for COVID-19 and said he and his wife had both gotten tested for the virus after the news broke.

"Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don't know," Trump said earlier in the evening.

"We'll see what happens. Who knows," he said, adding "I spend a lot of time with Hope. So does the first lady."

He then tweeted that he and the first lady "will begin our quarantine process."

Trump has downplayed virus's severity

For months, Trump has downplayed the severity of the virus and contradicted medical professionals on the importance of wearing masks. At recent rallies — most of which are outside — large crowds have gathered, with many in the audience opting against wearing the widely recommended face masks.

Trump himself is rarely seen wearing a mask in public, citing the frequency of COVID-19 testing for both himself and his staff.

At Tuesday's presidential debate, Trump even scoffed at his rival Biden's frequent use of masks.

"When needed, I wear a mask," Trump said. "I don't wear masks like him. Every time you see him he wears a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away. He shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen."

Globally, coronavirus has been responsible for more than 1 million deaths.

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