WASHINGTON (CN) — The White House said Friday evening that President Donald Trump will spend several days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center based on advice from his doctors after he tested positive for Covid-19.
“President Trump remains in good spirts, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day. 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. President Trump appreciates the outpouring of support for both he and the First Lady,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
When asked if there would be a transfer of power to Vice President Mike Pence, White House spokesman Judd Deere responded: “Absolutely not.”
Heading to Walter Reed on Friday evening, President Trump was photographed walking out of the White House and toward Marine One wearing a mask.
Shortly after, the president tweeted a video giving thanks for well-wishes.
“I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I’m going to Walter Reed. 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. Thank you very much, I appreciate it. I will never forget, thank you,” he said.
First Lady Melania Trump also tested positive early Friday. She and the president join over 7 million Americans who have contracted the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill both tested negative for Covid-19 on Friday morning, according to a statement from Biden’s doctor released by his campaign.
Upon reports that Trump would be sent to Walter Reed, Biden tweeted: “This cannot be a partisan moment. It must be an American moment. We have to come together as a nation.”
As a clinically obese 74-year-old man, Trump’s diagnosis puts him at a high risk for complications from the virus, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Melania Trump is 50 years old and more physically fit, making her risk factor for complications from the virus somewhat lower.
Sean Conley, the White House physician, issued a memo early Friday after the president revealed his diagnosis on Twitter, saying Trump would be able to continue his duties without disruption while recovering in White House residence. Later on Friday, Conley described the president as “fatigued but in good spirits.”
Conley administered a single dose of an experimental Regeneron antibody cocktail as a precautionary step on Friday. The drug is currently under Phase II and III review in four clinical trials and its efficacy has not been determined by any regulatory body like the Food and Drug Administration, according to Regeneron’s website.
It is unclear how the president obtained the drug, but Regeneron has said the antibody cocktail is made available through its “compassionate use” program and under board committee approval.
Trump received eight grams via injection, the highest possible dose. The president is reportedly only taking a limited number of other, unrelated supplements including zinc, vitamin D and melatonin. Trump also takes a heartburn drug and daily aspirin.
Trump said in the wee hours of Friday morning that he and the first lady would begin the quarantine process immediately. The CDC recommends a 14-day quarantine period for those exposed to the virus or symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers. It is unclear if Trump will observe the full two weeks of isolation, considering the Nov. 3 election is less than five weeks away.
He had been expected to hit the campaign trial in Florida on Friday as the clock winds down to Election Day. He also had plans to travel to the key battleground of Wisconsin for a rally and then onto Arizona on Sunday.
Those plans have since been struck from the White House schedule. The Trump campaign also announced on Friday afternoon that it was converting all previously scheduled in-person events for Trump to virtual ones or temporarily postponing them.
“In addition, previously announced events involving members of the First Family are also being temporarily postponed,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
The virus has also spread to at least three members of the White House press corps, with the White House Correspondents Association issuing a memo stating the journalists tested positive. An unnamed White House staffer who sits among the corps was also diagnosed as positive. One of the journalists traveled aboard Air Force Once when Trump went to a campaign rally in Pennsylvania last weekend but only showed symptoms on Thursday.
The Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the United States for over six months and killed 208,000 Americans. Precisely how far the virus may have spread inside of the White House is not yet clear but a slew of officials will be tested.
The president’s disclosure came shortly after it was reported that White House adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive for the virus. She is regularly near Trump and was on Air Force One with the president ahead of a campaign rally in Minnesota on Sept. 30. Hicks was reportedly quarantined on board as she and other administration officials made their way back to the White House that evening after showing signs of illness.
Also on the plane was White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who was in close quarters with Hicks and hosted a White House press briefing with reporters 24 hours after their interaction. McEnany was not wearing a mask during the briefing and she did not disclose Hicks’ condition.
Devin O’Malley, Vice President Pence’s press secretary, said Friday that the second-in-command and Second Lady Karen Pence have both tested negative and are in “good health.”
Though Pence appears to have been spared thus far, Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, was not. Currently exhibiting mild symptoms, McDaniel first tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. Her spokesman Steve Guest told Fox News on Friday that a member of McDaniel’s family first tested positive, prompting her to seek a test for herself.
She received her results Wednesday and appeared on Fox News for a remote interview on Thursday but did not mention her condition. McDaniel visited with Trump last Friday and has been staying at her home in Michigan ever since.
Since the pandemic first struck the U.S. over six months ago, Trump has routinely downplayed its severity, often refusing to wear a face mask in public and regularly deriding others for doing so against the advice of public health experts the world over.
Most recently, he chastised his Biden for wearing a mask during the first presidential debates on Tuesday.
“I don’t wear face masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Trump said of his 77-year old Democratic opponent. “He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Biden responded with advice proffered to Congress from Trump’s own CDC Director Robert Redfield mere weeks ago.
“His own CDC director says we can lose as many as another 200,000 people between now and the end of the year,” Biden said. “And he held [a mask] up and he said, ‘If we just wear a mask, we can save half those numbers’ – just a mask.”
Biden has kept much of his 2020 campaign limited to small, socially distanced events in light of the pandemic and wears a mask consistently when in public.
The two candidates did not shake hands during the inaugural 2020 debate because of coronavirus concerns. They also kept a distance of roughly 10 feet during the 90-minute event.
Members of the White House press corps confirmed Friday there was no contact from the Trump campaign or the White House to notify the Bidens of possible exposure after Trump revealed his diagnosis. Biden only learned of the risk through news reports.
A little over a month remains until Election Day and Trump’s diagnosis drastically undercuts his campaign message that the pandemic is being properly managed or coming to an end.
Some other people close to the president have tested positive for the virus over recent months, including a valet at the White House and former Pence press secretary Katie Miller. Upon confirmation of their diagnoses in May, Trump told reporters gathered for a socially distanced press briefing at the Rose Garden: “I feel no vulnerability whatsoever.”
“I think we’re really doing a very good job in watching it and I think it’s very well contained,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he spoke with Trump by phone early Friday to discuss the chamber’s agenda, including Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett set to start Oct. 12.
“He’s in good spirits and we talked business – especially how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that he nominee, the Court & the country deserve,” the Kentucky Republican tweeted Friday.
The Washington Post reported Friday that according to three officials familiar with the matter, Barrett tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this summer but has since recovered. As a nominee, Barrett receives daily tests and tested negative on Friday morning, according to a White House spokesman.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is 80 years old and second only to Pence in the line of constitutional succession, tested negative for the virus on Friday.
Pelosi has been in regular contact with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as talks for the next round of pandemic relief continue. Mnuchin, according to spokeswoman Monica Crowley, also tested negative on Friday and will continue to be tested daily.