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Trump tests Covid positive: What we know and don’t know

The White House has not given any detailed account of Trump’s condition, but Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, said Friday morning that the president is experiencing “mild symptoms” while still in touch with aides about work issues.

By: New York Times | Updated: October 3, 2020 9:12:22 am
donald trump news, donald trump coronavirus, donald trump hospitalised, donald trump health updates, donald trump covid-19The president and first lady, who also tested positive, are isolating at the White House for the time being. (AP)

President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to the White House, but much remains unknown.

The president and first lady, who also tested positive, are isolating at the White House for the time being and his public schedule has been largely canceled, but White House officials said he remains in charge and able to carry out his duties. Vice President Mike Pence has tested negative for the virus, according to officials.

Here is what is known and unknown at this point.

How is the president doing?

The White House has not given any detailed account of Trump’s condition, but Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, said Friday morning that the president is experiencing “mild symptoms” while still in touch with aides about work issues.

“He continues to be not only in good spirits but very energetic,” Meadows told reporters. “We’ve talked a number of times this morning. I got the five or six things that he had tasked me to do, like I do every single morning, and he is certainly wanting to make sure that we stay engaged.”

Other people informed about his condition said the president has cold-like symptoms. He fell asleep at one point on Air Force One on the way back from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday night and was described as lethargic at a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday.

Also Read | ‘I think I’m doing very well’: Trump after testing Covid positive

What does this mean for the president?

Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady, are isolating at the White House for the time being and the president’s schedule of campaign rallies is being canceled for now. The White House has not said how long he will have to remain isolated, but it could be weeks.

In his middle-of-the-night statement confirming the test results, Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, said the president could continue to carry out his duties from the Executive Mansion “without disruption.” But Trump’s plan to travel to Florida on Friday for a campaign rally was canceled, and the rest of his public schedule for the day was stripped of everything except a previously scheduled midday telephone call with governors “on COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.” Then the president abruptly did not show up for that call either, turning it over to Pence.

The Trump campaign later announced that the president’s future rallies, including ones scheduled for Wisconsin on Saturday and Arizona on Monday, would be scrapped or converted to virtual events. All events involving the president’s family were also being postponed, but Pence would return to the trail, the campaign said.

Trump’s aides were discussing whether or how to get Trump in front of television cameras from the White House at some point to reassure the public. Mick Mulvaney, his former chief of staff now serving as a special envoy, said it was important for Trump to be visible, even just stepping out onto the Truman Balcony, “because I think it’s important that people see him and know that he is there.”

Also Read | What if Trump can’t run? Many steps are clear, but some are not

What is the prognosis?

While the coronavirus is much deadlier than the ordinary flu, the vast majority of people infected by it recover, especially if there is no underlying condition, but the threat climbs with age. At 74, the president is in the most vulnerable age group for the virus. Eight out of every 10 deaths attributed to it in the United States have been among those 65 and older. Trump is at extra risk because of his weight, which is formally categorized as obese.

What happens if he becomes seriously ill?

For the moment, Trump is said to remain well enough to discharge his duties. If the illness were to become worse, the president under the 25th Amendment could temporarily transfer his powers to Pence with the transmission of letters to the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate and then reclaim them once he recovers.

Since the amendment was ratified in 1967, presidents have done so only three times. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan underwent a colonoscopy and briefly turned over power to Vice President George Bush, although he did not explicitly cite the amendment in doing so. President George W. Bush did invoke the amendment twice in temporarily turning over power to Vice President Dick Cheney during colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007.

Also Read | After Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, Biden says masks not about being a ‘tough guy’

Who else is infected?

Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest advisers, tested positive Thursday, prompting the concern for the president. Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman who was with the president Sept. 25, has also tested positive. Trump, who almost never wears a face mask, has been in proximity to a number of White House officials, Secret Service agents, military aides and others who are now getting tested.

In addition to Pence, his wife, Karen Pence, and Meadows, those who have tested negative so far are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of them senior advisers to the president; Barron Trump, the president’s youngest son; Dan Scavino, the president’s deputy chief of staff; and Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, previously had the virus, according to officials, but was tested again and was negative.

It can take several days after exposure for the virus to reach levels that are detectable by a test. People show symptoms on average around five days after exposure but as late as 14 days.

Also Read | After Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, Biden says masks not about being a ‘tough guy’

How did he get it?

Much attention has focused on Hicks because her condition set off alarms at the White House, but it is not at all clear how the president was infected. He has been in crowded settings repeatedly over the past week, and it is possible he infected Hicks rather than the other way around. The administration said it has started tracing their contacts with people who were near both of them.

Meadows said the president’s entourage learned that Hicks’ test had come back positive Thursday afternoon just as they were taking off on Marine One heading to New Jersey for the fundraising event. He did not explain why Trump proceeded with the trip. At the event at Bedminster, Trump, who was not wearing a mask, addressed hundreds of supporters both outdoors and indoors.

But increasingly it looked like a possible source of the spread may have been the ceremony in the White House Rose Garden last Saturday when Trump announced his nomination of Barrett, an event where few wore masks or kept socially distant. So far, several people who were there have said they have since tested positive, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and the Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.

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