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No Need To Test Trump For Coronavirus, White House Doctor Says

President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci answered questions about coronavirus response in a Rose Garden news conference on Friday.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci answered questions about coronavirus response in a Rose Garden news conference on Friday.

Updated at 12:28 a.m. ET

A day after his communications secretary went into quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday moved swiftly to shoot down local news reports that he too had tested positive. That was good news for President Trump.

"Negative for COVID-19, the Honorable President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro," the Brazilian president wrote on his official Twitter account. "DON'T BELIEVE IN THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA."

Bolsonaro's coronavirus test results were being watched closely in Washington, six days after the Brazilian leader dined at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort with Trump, Vice President Pence, Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Fabio Wajngarten, the coronavirus-infected Bolsonaro communications chief, had posed alongside Trump for a photo taken at the dinner.

Friday night Brazil saidits charge d'affairs Nestor Forster, who was with Trump and Bolsonaro at the dinner, had also tested positive and had already been quarantining himself.

Well, I didn't say I wasn't going to be tested.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends in its coronavirus guidelines that people consider restricting their movements if they have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 but show no symptoms.

So far none of the federal officials who met with Brazil's Bolsonaro and his infected communications secretary or Australia's COVID-19 positive Dutton are known to have been infected.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., met at the Florida dinner with Bolsonaro and both said they would self-quarantine.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who met with Bolsonaro in Miami on Monday, announcedThursday he had chosen to self-quarantine.

On Friday, Suarez revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus and recommended that people take precautions if he had shaken their hand or sneezed near them.

Trump, however, has shown no inclination to isolate himself after his weekend encounter with Bolsonaro's communications secretary.

"I take pictures and it lasts for literally seconds — I don't know the gentleman that we're talking about, I have no idea who he is," Trump said Friday when asked about his contact with Wajngartner. "Now, I did sit with the president for probably two hours, but he's tested negative, so that's good."

The president was asked at a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday afternoon if he was being selfish by not getting tested and potentially exposing others.

"Well, I didn't say I wasn't going to be tested," Trump replied. Pressed on the point, Trump said, "Most likely, yeah. Most likely. Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway."

But Friday night, Dr. Sean Conley, physician to the president, issued a statement saying Trump is at low risk for COVID-19 because his contact with the one of the infected individuals was "extremely limited (photograph, handshakes)," and "all interactions [with the other person] occurred before any symptom onset."

Trump himself has no symptoms and need not self-quarantine or even be tested, Conley said, but the doctor will monitor him.

Askedby ABC News' Cecilia Vega on Friday whether Trump should be self-monitoring or in isolation getting tested, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, demurred.

"I leave that to the president's White House physician who is an extremely competent individual who I know well," Fauci said.

But when pressed on whether if he himself would get tested if he came into contact with someone who had tested positive, Fauci was somewhat more forthcoming.

"Likely I would, but I'm not sure. It depends on the circumstances," Fauci said. "We should follow the guidelines of the CDC about when you are at a risk what you should do."

A few days earlier, Ivanka Trump, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf met in Washington with Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. On Friday Dutton, who had also met with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, announced he had tested positive for coronavirus.

"This morning I woke up with a temperature and a sore throat. I immediately contacted the Queensland Department of Health and was subsequently tested for COVID-19," Dutton, who was hospitalized in Brisbane, wrote. "I feel fine and will provide an update in due course."

Whatever Trump's plans regarding the virus, his daughter appeared to be taking precautions after learning Australia's Dutton had tested positive for coronavirus eight days after meeting with her.

"Exposures from the case were assessed and the White House Medical Unit confirmed, in accordance with CDC guidance, that Ivanka is exhibiting no symptoms and does not need to self-quarantine," White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. "She worked from home today out of an abundance of caution until guidance was given."

On Thursday evening, two days after declaring in Miami that the coronavirus outbreak "is not all the mainstream media makes it out to be," Brazil's Bolsonaro delivered nationally broadcast remarks about the pandemic while wearing a protective mask.

"That coronavirus, it's scary," Bolsonaro, a hardline conservative with strong support from religious evangelicals, exclaimed before giving a hand-washing demonstration using a squirt of hand sanitizer. "We ask God that this problem quickly dissipates from this country, and that everyone gets back to normal life."

And confirmation of his coronavirus infection comes at an awkward time for Australia's Dutton, who last week was dismissing complaints of unsanitary conditions from some of the 240 Australians evacuated from China whom he had sent to remote Christmas Island for quarantine.

"I think frankly, overwhelmingly, except for one photo of one cockroach, most people are complimentary of what has happened," he said last month.

"Shouldn't you be quarantined on Christmas Island?" one wag on Twitter queried after Dutton became Australia's first cabinet member to test positive for coronavirus.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
Barbara Campbell