WASHINGTON—President Trump moved to a hospital facility on Friday following a positive Covid-19 test that forced officials to cancel White House events and postpone travel, injecting new uncertainty into the final stretch of the 2020 election campaign.
Mr. Trump, wearing a blue mask, gave a thumb’s up sign but made no comment as he walked to the Marine One helicopter that carried him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He will quarantine at the Bethesda, Md., facility, based on the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, and he will work from the presidential offices there in the next few days, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
Ms. McEnany said the president’s symptoms were mild and the move was made out of an abundance of caution. Earlier Friday, White House physician Sean Conley said the president was fatigued and that first lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive, had a mild cough and headache.
Late Friday evening, Dr. Conley said in a memo that the president had completed his first dose of remdesivir, which is among the few drugs that have been shown to treat Covid-19 and was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for such use. Dr. Conley said the president was doing well and hadn’t required any supplemental oxygen.
Mr. Trump tweeted from the hospital late Friday: “Going well, I think!”
As Mr. Trump left the White House, he tweeted a recorded video in which he thanked people for their support. “I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” he said. He said the first lady is “doing very well.”
The diagnosis rippled through the White House, as at least seven people who attended the president’s Supreme Court announcement in the White House Rose Garden last weekend said they had since tested positive and officials also looked to track down other people who may have been exposed. Mr. Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence to host a scheduled call with governors in his place and scratched planned campaign trips Friday and Saturday in the battleground states of Florida and Wisconsin. Until his video late Friday and his trip to the hospital, he hadn’t tweeted or appeared publicly since announcing his and the first lady’s diagnosis after midnight, which came shortly after news reports that close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive.
Late Friday, the Trump campaign confirmed that Bill Stepien, the president’s campaign manager, had tested positive. Mr. Stepien was experiencing mild symptoms and plans to quarantine until he recovers, the campaign said. The diagnosis further complicates the president’s re-election effort, which now has both a candidate and a campaign manager who are quarantined.
Mr. Stepien traveled with Mr. Trump earlier this week to the first presidential debate in Cleveland.
White House officials insisted Friday that Mr. Trump’s diagnosis wouldn’t affect his governing. “We have a president that is not only on the job, he will remain on the job,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said.
White House communications director Alyssa Farah said there would be no transfer of power to Mr. Pence with the president’s move to Walter Reed. “Absolutely not,” she said.
The diagnosis of Mr. Trump makes him only the third major world leader to contract Covid-19 and thrusts the campaign, which polls show he is losing, further into uncharted territory just a month before Election Day. It remains unclear when the president will be able to return to the campaign trail and whether he would be able to participate in the remaining two debates with Democrat Joe Biden, who on Friday tested negative for the virus.
Some people close to President Trump tested positive for Covid-19, and others negative. Here is a list of key officials.
- President Trump
- First Lady Melania Trump
- White House adviser Hope Hicks
- RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
- Former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway
- Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien
- Vice President Mike Pence
- Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
- HHS Secretary Alex Azar
- Attorney General William Barr
- White House adviser Dan Scavino
- White House adviser Jared Kushner
- White House adviser Ivanka Trump
- Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany
- Source: White House, Justice Department, HHS, Treasury, Trump campaign
Democrats have begun to ramp up their in-person campaigning. After completing a train trip this week across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden headed Friday to Michigan. All the president’s coming campaign events will be virtual or postponed, Mr. Stepien has said, marking a sudden shutdown for Mr. Trump’s signature rallies.
Mr. Biden said he was sending prayers that the Trumps will recover quickly. “This is not a matter of politics. It’s a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously,” he said during an appearance in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said there were no immediate changes planned for the two remaining presidential debates or for Wednesday’s face-off featuring the two vice-presidential candidates.
The news that the president was ill rattled markets overnight and sent a shock wave through Washington, which is grappling with a contentious Supreme Court nomination, trillion-dollar-plus coronavirus aid talks and an election that will decide control of the White House and Congress. The diagnosis also underscored the unrelenting nature of the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, as the country weighs the trade-offs between reopening businesses and schools and staying safe.
As Friday wore on, at least seven people who attended an event last Saturday in the White House Rose Garden, where the president announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court pick, said they had tested positive.
Many guests at the event didn’t wear masks, and several were seen hugging. Attendees had been tested at the White House that morning, and it couldn’t be established where those who have since tested positive were infected.
Late Friday, former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who attended the Rose Garden event and was seated near two others who have fallen ill, said she had tested positive. She said that her symptoms were mild and that she would begin quarantining.
Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who were in the Rose Garden—Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina—said they tested positive on Friday, and both said they would isolate for 10 days. Mr. Lee was captured on video embracing several attendees. Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, another attendee who didn’t wear a mask during the event, has also tested positive, and said Friday not wearing a mask was an error in judgment. The president, first lady and a White House journalist who has since tested positive were also in attendance.
Neither Mr. Trump nor Judge Barrett wore a mask. Judge Barrett tested negative for the virus, the White House said.
Democrats called for postponing Judge Barrett’s confirmation, arguing that the infection of two senators could make it difficult to hold in-person hearings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who both spoke with Mr. Trump on Friday, said they planned to move forward.
The president’s positive test also refocused attention on the already intense criticism of his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as on Mr. Trump’s regular playing down of its seriousness and the value of wearing masks. The White House will continue to leave mask-wearing optional on its grounds, a White House official said.
Senior officials were at the White House on Friday, including Mr. Meadows, who spoke to reporters without a mask, citing a negative test result he had received that morning. It wasn’t known how many officials who had been in contact with the president this week were quarantining.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines call for individuals to quarantine for 14 days after coming in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. A person exposed to Covid-19 might not develop symptoms or test positive for the illness until days later.
Mr. Trump traveled each of the previous three days, with dozens of White House staffers, top campaign aides, senior Republican Party officials and at least five members of Congress, according to White House travel logs reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Meadows also confirmed on Friday that the White House was aware Ms. Hicks had tested positive before the president left for New Jersey on Thursday, where he attended an indoor roundtable with supporters and a fundraiser, which included an outdoor and indoor component. Mr. Meadows said the White House decided to pull some aides from the trip after learning Ms. Hicks’s test results.
Leaders Who Have Had Covid-19
A number of presidents and prime ministers have contracted the new coronavirus since the pandemic began.
President: Donald Trump
Age: 74, Hospitalized
Total Covid-19 cases: 7,277,759
Total Covid-19 deaths: 207,789
President: Jair Bolsonaro
Total Covid-19 cases: 4,847,092
Total Covid-19 deaths: 144,680
Prime Minister: Mikhail Mishustin
Age: 54, Hospitalized
Total Covid-19 cases: 1,179,634
Total Covid-19 deaths: 20,796
Prime Minister: Boris Johnson
Age: 56, Hospitalized
Total Covid-19 cases: 460,178
Total Covid-19 deaths: 42,202
Jeanine Áñez Chávez
Total Covid-19 cases: 135,716
Total Covid-19 deaths: 8,001
President: Luis Abinader
Total Covid-19 cases: 112,728
Total Covid-19 deaths: 2,108
President: Alejandro Giammattei
Total Covid-19 cases: 92,409
Total Covid-19 deaths: 3,261
President: Alexander Lukashenko
Total Covid-19 cases: 79,019
Total Covid-19 deaths: 839
President: Juan Orlando Hernández
Age: 51, Hospitalized
Total Covid-19 cases: 77,598
Total Covid-19 deaths: 2.380
Prime Minsiter: Nikol Pashinyan
Total Covid-19 cases: 50,850
Total Covid-19 deaths: 963
Ms. Hicks traveled with the president twice this week, including to Minnesota for a campaign rally on Wednesday, when she began to feel symptoms and quarantined for part of the return flight.
Ms. McEnany told reporters at the White House that Mr. Trump’s trip to New Jersey had been cleared by officials as safe. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday urged anyone who had been in or around the Bedminster, N.J., Trump event to quarantine and get tested.
On Friday, the president received one 8-gram dose of
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s
antibody cocktail, in addition to zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin, Dr. Conley said. The preliminary results from Regeneron’s clinical trial show the experimental antibody cocktail was found to help reduce virus levels and improve symptoms in sick patients who weren’t hospitalized. Dr. Conley described the drug as a polyclonal therapy, but it is a monoclonal antibody.
While many people recover without suffering serious illness, Mr. Trump’s age of 74 puts him at higher risk from the virus, as does the fact that he is overweight. According to the CDC, people in their 60s and 70s are “at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.”
Since the outset of the pandemic, Mr. Trump has publicly minimized the threat of the virus. For months, he refused to wear a mask in public and mocked others, including Mr. Biden, for doing so. He predicted the virus would magically disappear, and repeatedly said during the past month that the country was nearing the end of the pandemic.
“It affects virtually nobody,” Mr. Trump said about coronavirus during a rally in Ohio on Sept. 21.
White House aides, some of whom were working from home on Friday, were rattled by the developments and alarmed by the absence of internal communication, including the failure to inform Ms. McEnany about Ms. Hicks’s positive test before briefing reporters on Thursday, people familiar with the discussions said. Ms. McEnany and Ms. Hicks had attended the event the previous night.
One White House official described the mood as “hair on fire.” Aides texted each other to ask if they were healthy and whether they had been tested.
White House officials are discussing restricting access to the president in the future or testing all officials in the West Wing, rather than only those who come into contact with the president, though no decisions have been made, the people said.
Three White House journalists tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, the White House Correspondents’ Association said in an email.
The Republican National Committee said Friday that chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tested positive on Wednesday afternoon. She was last with the president on Sept. 25 for a fundraiser, and had tested negative that morning. Trump campaign aides who were in Cleveland are getting tested, though some without symptoms were working from the campaign office, said a person familiar with the plans.
Mr. Pence and his wife tested negative for the coronavirus, his press secretary said on Twitter. His doctor in a memo said the vice president wasn’t considered to be in close contact with the president or anyone else who tested positive and doesn’t need to quarantine. A senior administration official said the vice president still plans to travel to Utah for his debate next week with Sen. Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law who traveled with him earlier this week, also tested negative, a White House official said.
Other world leaders have tested positive, including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, who was hospitalized and discharged in April. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s 65-year-old president, tested positive in July and had a negative test result at the end of that month.
If the president’s condition were to worsen, he could temporarily transfer power to Mr. Pence under the 25th Amendment. That has happened only three times in U.S. history, including when former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush underwent colonoscopies. In other incidents, such as when Mr. Reagan was shot and had to undergo emergency surgery in 1981, power wasn’t formally transferred.
—Alex Leary and Ken Thomas contributed to this article.
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