WASHINGTON: News of President Donald Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis has upended the United States presidential election campaign entering its final month and roiled stock markets, raising questions about succession and prompting White House aides to insist that Trump would keep a busy, if modified, schedule.
Trump's diagnosis was announced on early Friday (Oct 2) morning, but a close adviser to the president tested positive a day before. Over the weekend, more prominent Republicans have been added to the list of those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
WHO IN TRUMP'S CIRCLE HAVE TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19?
Hope Hicks, a close adviser to the president who often travelled with him on the Air Force One and Marine One presidential aircraft, tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Thursday.
After Trump tweeted he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for COVID-19 early Friday morning, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who has had frequent contact with Trump, said she tested positive for the virus and was quarantined at home in Michigan.
Other prominent Republicans who have also said they tested positive for COVID-19 since Trump's announcement include: Republican Senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson, former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager, 42-year-old Bill Stepien and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Christie said he checked himself in to a hospital on Saturday as a precaution due to his asthma, though he said he had only mild symptoms.
Trump and some other Republicans have eschewed social distancing, mask wearing and other protocols health officials recommend to stop the spread of the virus.
In an update from Trump on Saturday, he said in a video from his hospital room that he felt "much better" and hoped to be "back soon". But this came after a day of contradictory messages from the White House about his condition following his COVID-19 diagnosis.
A White House team of doctors said on Saturday morning that Trump's condition was improving and that he was already talking about returning to the White House. One doctor said Trump had told them that he "could walk out of here today".
Within minutes, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a less rosy assessment.
"The president's vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We're still not on a clear path to a full recovery," he said.
Meadows, whose initial comments were delivered on condition that he not be identified, altered his tone hours later, telling Reuters that Trump was doing "very well" and that doctors were "very pleased with his vital signs".
Meadows did not clarify the discrepancy in his comments.
In recent months, other White House and Trump campaign personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19:
- US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien in late July. Before Trump's infection, O'Brien was the highest-ranking administration official to test positive for the virus. O'Brien had mild COVID symptoms and returned to work on Aug 4.
- Katie Miller, spokeswoman to Mike Pence, wife of Stephen Miller, a Trump senior adviser, in early May, forcing Pence to slightly delay a Pence trip to Iowa.
- Kimberly Guilfoyle, senior adviser to Trump campaign and girlfriend to Donald Trump Jr.
- Tom Phillipson, the former acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in early June. He told the Wall Street Journal of his infection after recovering and leaving the White House in late June
READ: COVID-19: White House National Security Council tells staff members wear masks in common areas and avoid West Wing
- A member of the US Navy who served as a personal valet to Trump tested positive in early May. The infection prompted daily tests for those working at the White House.
- A US Marine assigned to Trump's helicopter squadron tested positive for the coronavirus in late July. The squadron transports Trump and other top officials from the White House aboard the Marine One helicopter.
- A worker in a White House complex cafeteria tested positive in late July. The cafeteria is located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where some White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, have offices.