Now What? Questions, Answers, and Updates On Trump’s Coronavirus News
Like so much else in the Trump era, the news that the president tested positive for the coronavirus that has already killed 208,000 Americans is both huge news and not entirely surprising, given the lax coronavirus prevention protocols maintained by the president’s campaign for reelection. It also raises a lot of questions.
We’ll be gathering those questions below, adding new ones, and getting answers as they arise, so stay tuned throughout the day for updates from Garance Franke-Ruta and Max Ufberg and, as always, follow Medium’s Coronavirus Blog.
How is Trump doing?
Trump is not asymptomatic. On Friday evening, he was taken to Walter Reed Military Medical Center. “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,” Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. Earlier Friday, A Bloomberg News reporter was told the president has for days been experiencing intense fatigue — a Covid-19 symptom. Trump has “cold-like symptoms” and appeared “lethargic” at a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday, the New York Times reported. First lady Melania Trump also has “mild symptoms,” she tweeted. Symptom onset from time of infection is most commonly five or six days, though it can be as fast as two days and as slow as 14 or (in rare cases) more.
Did Trump expose or infect Joe Biden during the debate?
Biden and Trump spent over 90 minutes in an auditorium debating on Tuesday night. Their podiums were 12 feet apart inside the debate hall, they did not shake hands, and they also did not wear masks while debating. Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at George Mason University, told The Guardian on Friday it was “entirely possible” Biden had been exposed. Joe and Jill Biden were tested Friday morning and tested negative, but false negatives are possible early after exposure and they will likely need to continue to monitor for symptoms.
Who else around Trump has been tested?
The White House is undertaking efforts to test and trace people who recently spent time with the Trumps. So far:
- Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee chairwoman, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, it was revealed on Friday. She was last with Trump on September 25, five days before Hicks developed symptoms.
- Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has tested positive after “experiencing symptoms consistent with longtime allergies,” he announced Friday, after testing negative while visiting the White House “just a few days ago,” for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
- Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who also attended the SCOTUS announcement Saturday at the White House, tested positive this week, the university announced Friday. He had been criticized for taking off his mask and shaking hands at the event.
- Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence have tested negative.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has tested negative. Earlier this week, he met with top congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is second in line for the presidency after Pence.
- Amy Coney Barrett last spent time with Trump on Saturday. She tested negative on Friday.
- Barron Trump, 14, has tested negative, a White House spokeswoman announced Friday.
- White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has tested negative.
- Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who spent time prepping Trump for the debate along with Hicks, said he expects test results back on Saturday and was negative when he was tested on Tuesday.
- Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani is quarantining and waiting for test results.
- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner tested negative for the coronavirus Friday, a White House official told CNN.
Important caveat: Hope Hicks tested negative until she became symptomatic on Wednesday, which suggests that the test being used by the White House may not be sensitive enough to pick up some fraction of the cases of people who are infected and infectious — as individuals with the virus often are in the final few days before symptom onset — but who have not yet become sick.
What are people who recently spent time with Trump saying?
They’re not too pleased with the president. An anonymous source told NBC on Friday that “The donors have been texting and calling. Freaking out.” The source said that between 30 and 50 donors were close to Trump on Thursday at a fundraiser at his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey; Rich Roberts, a major Republican donor and New Jersey local, told the Lakewood Scoop on Friday that Trump met with 19 people at the Bedminster event for about 45 minutes. Donors received an email from “Trump Victory” late Friday morning advising them to contact a doctor if they’re feeling any Covid-like symptoms. “Out of an abundance of caution, we want to call this to your attention. Please be reminded that due to Trump Victory-protocol, no attendees were allowed within 6 ft of President Trump at the event,” the email reads. “Please contact your medical provider if you or any of your loved ones is ill or develops a fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms.”
What does this mean for the U.S. election?
Who can say? When U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 55, caught the coronavirus, support did not surge. Trump has a great hatred of weakness and disease, and his supporters pilloried Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she contracted pneumonia during the campaign. If Trump becomes severely ill, it will be harder for Biden to attack him, and there may be calls for Biden to pull ads from television. Trump has postponed all in-person events involving him or his family; Biden, meanwhile, was still planning to travel to Michigan on Friday for a campaign stop. There are a variety of worst-case scenarios it’s hard not to think about when discussing the health of two men in their seventies and the coronavirus. At the very least, the debate schedule is likely to be scrambled so long as Trump keeps testing positive for the virus or remains symptomatic.
Will Trump’s diagnosis affect Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court?
That’s unlikely. Senate Republicans have already said they still plan to nominate Barrett to the vacant seat before Election Day. “Just finished a great phone call with @POTUS,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter. “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 the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve.” Barrett had been in close proximity to the president last weekend, but tested negative for the virus on Friday. (While she did test positive for the virus over the summer, she’s since recovered.)
What do we know about Trump’s medical history?
Even before this diagnosis, Trump’s medical history had been under scrutiny. We know less about Trump’s medical history than we do almost any other president in modern history. Whereas most presidents (and even presidential nominees) release their health records, Trump has been reluctant to do so. A 2015 letter by Harold Bornstein, MD, that claimed Trump’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary” was later found to have been dictated by Trump himself. More recently, in August, news broke that Trump was admitted to Walter Reed hospital last year for undisclosed reasons and that Pence was put “on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily.” Some pundits then speculated that the president had suffered a stroke or cardiac event. Trump recently denied that he had had “a series of mini-strokes.”
In addition, we know that Trump’s demographic puts him at higher risk for becoming ill: Several studies have found that Covid-19 is deadliest for older males, and a study published in Nature in August found that men produce a weaker immune response to the virus than women do. Trump is also clinically obese, which has been associated with a higher risk of more severe disease.
Will Trump take hydroxychloroquine?
Meadows was asked this directly on Friday. He declined to comment on Trump’s treatment.
Can we trust the health reports coming from the White House?
Are you kidding? You can’t even trust the reports coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention these days, thanks to White House interference. No, you cannot trust the on-the-record reports coming from the White House.