President Donald Trump early on Friday announced that he and first lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for COVID-19 and will quarantine, with just 32 days to go until the election, and after he has publicly downplayed the seriousness of the virus.
In a statement released early Friday, Trump’s doctor said that at this point, both the president and Melania were feeling “well,” though it’s unclear whether either is showing symptoms, and if so, what kind.
Preceding Trump’s announcement, news outlets reported on Thursday evening that Trump aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19. The president appeared on Fox News with host Sean Hannity to confirm that he and his wife were being tested, and at 1 a.m., Trump tweeted: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
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The New York Times reported that Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel has also tested positive for COVID-19. She was last seen with the president last Friday, and is quarantining in her home in Michigan.
The president has, at times, referred to the coronavirus as a “hoax” and clashed with top scientists over how best to mitigate its spread. As the virus spread throughout the country, Trump took few of the precautions recommended by health officials and pushed for a return to normalcy.
The coronavirus has emerged as a major election issue, as the reality of the pandemic has affected millions of Americans. It is unclear what political implications this has for the president, who has returned to his rallies in recent weeks, where neither he nor many of his supporters in the audience are wearing protective masks.
The president’s diagnosis also raises questions about when he contracted COVID-19 and who else he has come into contact with who may have been exposed. Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who stood just feet away from Trump on a debate stage for 90 minutes on Tuesday, tweeted Friday shortly before noon, “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.”
Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett — who was introduced by the president on Saturday in the Rose Garden — has spent much of this week on Capitol Hill introducing herself to Republican senators ahead of her expected confirmation hearings, scheduled to begin in mid-October.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have both tested negative. Pence is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday.
Most Americans disapprove of the president’s job handling the virus, and would prefer Biden to manage the crisis. Polling suggests there is no gender gap when it comes to how voters — particularly in battleground states — are weighing the pandemic in shaping their votes. But in general, women prefer Biden by a factor of almost double when it comes to managing both the economic and public health response.
And across genders, Black and Latinx voters appeared far more likely to support Biden on the issue of addressing COVID-19.
For months, women have also taken generally greater precautions in addressing COVID-19. Polling shows they have consistently been likelier to wear protective face masks. They are also likelier to express concern that a vaccine will be rushed to approval before it is safe and effective — a concern that has been repeatedly raised by experts, as Trump continually promises to have an immunization ready before Election Day.
Trump is not the first public official to have contracted the virus. In March, Kentucky Sen.Rand Paul, a critic of mask-wearing tested positive for COVID-19. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt tested positive this summer. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is currently isolating after a positive test, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson recently announced he had recovered. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is currently self-quarantining, after a staff member tested positive .
The news of Trump’s test was the most striking in a series of headlines concerning women in Trump’s inner circle within a matter of hours.
Earlier Thursday, The New Yorker published an expose about former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle. The New Yorker report centered around extensive sexual harassment complaints against Guilfoyle, with the harrassment mainly targeting a female assistant working for her. Guilfoyle, who is dating Trump’s son Donald Jr., has emerged as a top Trump surrogate this election, and held a prime speaking slot at August’s Republican National Convention.
The same evening, newly released recordings revealed the first lady voicing frustration at criticism she received for her role in the administration’s controversial immigration policy, which has included separating children from their parents at the border.
“They say I’m complicit. I’m the same like him, I support him. I don’t say enough I don’t do enough where I am,” Melania said in the secret recordings by her former adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who has recently published a book about her relationship with the first lady.
Meanwhile, the news also broke about Hicks’ positive COVID test. Hicks traveled with Trump several times this week, including the trip to and from Tuesday night’s presidential debate in Cleveland, as well as to Minnesota for a Wednesday night rally. She is reportedly showing symptoms.