President Donald Trump announced early Friday he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for coronavirus, plunging the United States into further upheaval and uncertainty just over a month away from Election Day.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is next in line for the presidency, and his wife tested negative, the White House announced later Friday.
The White House physician said the president and first lady were “both well” at the moment. The New York Times, citing sources, said Trump was showing minor symptoms.
In a tweet shortly before 1 a.m. ET, Trump said: “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, U.S. stock futures moved sharply lower with Dow futures falling more than 500 points at one point. Dow were down nearly 500 points just ahead of the open Friday.
Trump is now the most powerful figure to come down with Covid-19. Previously, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had tested positive for coronavirus and survived, as did Britain’s Prince Charles.
Trump’s track record
Trump has come under withering criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, where over 7.2 million have been infected and more than 207,000 people have died, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
The president has admitted on tape to knowingly downplaying the severity of the virus and has pushed an overly optimistic outlook on the disease as it spread across the country.
He has aggressively pushed for schools, businesses and sports leagues to reopen after the pandemic hammered the economy, which had been humming along and had given him his strongest argument for reelection. He has also routinely held campaign events where supporters were densely packed together, with many not wearing masks. One prominent person who attended the rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma — Herman Cain — died weeks later from Covid.
In February, Trump said, “I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine,” and “Looks like by April, you know in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” Later that month he said, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Also in February, he said, “The 15 (cases in the U.S.) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
During Tuesday’s debate against Democrat Joe Biden, Trump said the U.S. is “weeks away” from a coronavirus vaccine.
White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a memo early Friday: “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.”
He also said he expects Trump to “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.”
The announcement came hours after the president said he would begin a quarantine process after top aide Hope Hicks tested positive for coronavirus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say people should stay home and quarantine if they might have been exposed to the virus. The agency says people should quarantine for 14 days.
Trump is scheduled to appear at his second presidential debate with Biden on Oct. 15, or 13 days after he revealed his diagnosis. The Commission on Presidential Debates didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on how Trump’s diagnosis affects the debates. Trump and Biden are also set to square off Oct. 22.
Hicks is known to spend a lot of time with Trump. The president, first lady and Hicks had traveled Tuesday to Cleveland for the debate on Air Force One with a group that included the president’s closest relatives and advisors.
They include White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; national security advisor Robert O’Brien; the president’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are senior White House advisors; the president’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric; Donald Jr’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who previously had Covid; Eric’s wife Lara Trump; the president’s daughter Tiffany; campaign manager Bill Stepien; top campaign official Jason Miller; White House social media director Dan Scavino; White House counselor Derek Lyons; political advisor Stephen Miller; and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Ivanka Trump and Kushner tested negative Friday morning, according to administration spokeswoman.
Also on that flight was Alice Marie Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate whom Trump granted clemency for her life sentence for a drug crime.