President Donald Trump has been transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, MD with a fever and congestion after testing positive for the coronavirus, administration officials said on Friday, as the White House and election campaign scrambled to adjust to an extraordinary twist in his turbulent presidency.
BY JEFF MASON, ALEXANDRA ALPER AND STEVE HOLLAND
Roughly 17 hours after he announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, Trump walked slowly from the White House to a waiting helicopter to be taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He wore a mask and did not speak to reporters.
Trump will stay in a special suite in the hospital for the next few days as a precautionary measure, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. Trump has not transferred power to Vice President Mike Pence, who tested negative for COVID-19.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” she said in a statement.
A pre-recorded statement from President Trump was published on his Twitter account not long after Marine One touched down with the president at Walter Reed.
“I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support,” he said. “I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out. The First Lady is doing very well. So thank you very much. I appreciate it, I will never forget it. Thank you.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
Trump, 74, has a mild fever, according to a source familiar with the matter. White House doctor Sean P. Conley said he is being treated with an experimental drug cocktail and is “fatigued but in good spirits.”
Trump, who has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, said early Friday morning he and his wife Melania were going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and severely damaged the U.S. economy.
Trump, 74, is exhibiting mild symptoms but will keep working in isolation, administration officials said. NBC News and The New York Times reported late on Friday afternoon, citing sources, that Trump is exhibiting a low-grade fever, nasal congestion and a cough — three common COVID-19 symptoms.
The president had been scheduled to hold a conference call briefing with the nation’s governors on Friday afternoon, but according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Trump did not appear. Pence ran the briefing on the president’s behalf.
The vice president took over Trump’s one other planned event for the day, a telephone discussion with retirees. As vice president, he would assume presidential duties should the president become incapacitated.
“We have a president that is not only on the job but will remain on the job and I’m optimistic that he will have a very quick and speedy recovery,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters earlier on Friday morning.
On Friday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that Conley administered to President Trump an “experimental antibody cocktail,” and that the president remains “fatigued.”
According to Conley’s White House memo received by CNN, the cocktail was a “single 8-gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail,” which has been reported to reduce symptoms and virus levels among patients. Trump has also taken zinc, vitamin D, famotidine (which is usually marketed as an antacid), melatonin and aspirin.
“As of this afternoon, the president remains fatigued but in good spirits. He’s being evaluated by a team of experts, and together we’ll be making recommendations to the President and First Lady in regards to next best steps,” Conley wrote.
The memo also noted that First Lady Trump “remains well with only a mild cough and headache,” and other members of the First Family are doing fine and tested negative for COVID-19.
Bidens test negative
Trump’s illness was the latest in a series of blows to the Republican president, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Biden said on Twitter that he and his wife Jill wished Trump and the first lady a speedy recovery. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family,” he said.
The Bidens underwent COVID-19 tests Friday, both of which came back negative. The Democratic nominee wound up resuming campaigning later on Friday in Michigan.
I’m happy to report that Jill and I have tested negative for COVID. Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern. I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 2, 2020
The New York Times reported Friday morning that President Trump had been seen exhibiting mild, cold-like symptoms during his appearance at the Trump National Country Club in Bedminster, NJ on Thursday. Citing two unnamed sources, the paper reported that the president seemed to exhibit lethargy; he had come into contact with about 100 people.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy took to Twitter Friday to urge anyone who attended the fundraiser to get tested for COVID-19 and take other precautions.
We urge everyone who attended yesterday's event in Bedminster to take full precautions, including self-quarantining and getting tested for #COVID19.
Find your nearest testing location: https://t.co/JZg9mGpUuV.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) October 2, 2020
Wall Street tumbled at news of one of the biggest health scares involving an American president for decades, with the S&P 500 plunging more than 1.5% at the opening.
An active Twitter user, Trump has not posted any messages since announcing his positive test early Friday morning. He will address the American people in some form soon, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said.
Meanwhile, in a related story, Republican National Committee Chairperson Ronna McDaniel has also tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to CNN. She had apparently received the diagnoses as a member of her family, with whom she had contact, contracted the illness.
Utah Senator Mike Lee also tested positive for COVID-19 Friday, as did Reverend John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University. They had both attended a Sept. 26 event at the White House where President Trump formally nominated federal circuit court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Barrett has tested negative for COVID-19, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who is second in the line of presidential succession behind only Pence.
The president’s risks
Just hours before Trump’s announcement, Trump had proclaimed the pandemic almost over, while Biden had tweeted accusing Trump of trying to distract from a “failed COVID-19 response” that led to the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans from the disease.
Trump, 74, is at high risk because of his age weight. He has remained in good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.
Trump understated the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak in its early stages and has repeatedly predicted it would go away. He rarely wears a mask and regularly mocks others including Biden for wearing them so often.
Trump advisers acknowledged that they would have to rip up their plans for the final weeks of the election campaign. Trump has held in-person rallies with supporters who mainly decline to wear masks, and has mocked Biden for avoiding such events.
“It’s so early to kind of know what’s going to happen but clearly it changes the dynamic from us being able to travel and show enormous energy and support from the rallies, which has been part of our calculation,” a Trump adviser said.
Trump’s positive test also means that others at the highest levels of the U.S. government have been exposed and may have to quarantine, too. A White House official said early on Friday that contact tracing was under way.
Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, said he expected the president to carry out his duties “without disruption” while he recovers.
“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,” Conley wrote in a memo that was distributed to the press.
Leaders around the world wished Trump a speedy recovery.
On Thursday night, shortly after Trump predicted the pandemic’s end was in sight, news broke that Hope Hicks, a top adviser and trusted aide, had tested positive for the virus. Hicks traveled with the president on Air Force One on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Trump flew to New Jersey after White House officials learned of Hicks’s symptoms, and attended a fundraiser at his golf club and delivered a speech. Trump was in close contact with other people, including campaign supporters, at a roundtable event.
With reporting by Robert Pozarycki