The revelation that President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus rattled the world on Friday, raising questions and concerns about his personal health, U.S. national security, and the course of the November presidential election.
Here’s everything we know about Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and its wide-ranging implications so far. This story will continue to be updated.
President Trump tweeted at 12:54 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” he wrote. “We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Vice President Mike Pence, who would stand in for Trump as president if Trump were to become too ill to lead the country, tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday morning.
For the time being, the White House doctor says that the president can carry out his duties “without disruption,” and that 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.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Trump was showing “mild symptoms” on Friday, but did not disclose details about any specific treatments. But several months into the pandemic, there are still only a limited number of treatment options for people with severe forms of COVID-19, let alone milder cases. Treatments like remdesivir and convalescent plasma target very ill patients.
“It’s watching, waiting…just supportive care, in general. Isolate,” Dr. Steven Shapiro, chief medical and scientific officer at UPMC, a hospital system based in Pittsburgh, told MarketWatch. (He is not treating the Trumps.) “The thing that we know that is most effective right now are steroids. But that tends to work later in the disease when someone develops the pneumonia.”
It should be noted that Trump’s age (74) and weight —- put him at a higher risk of suffering severe illness from the coronavirus.
What if Trump becomes too sick to serve as president?
As noted above, under the constitution Vice President Pence would take the reins in the event that Trump was unable to serve as president for health reasons, and he would likely pick another Republican to serve as his own V.P. If something happened where Pence was also unable to step in as commander-in-chief, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be next in line. Here’s a detailed look at the presidential line of succession.
Even though the president’s symptoms were only “mild” on Friday, the health scare is raising questions about what happens next with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and how his illness could shake up the federal government in the midst of a pandemic crisis.
The news came hours after the White House revealed that presidential aide Hope Hicks had contracted COVID-19 after traveling with the U.S. president several times earlier in the week.
Among the questions raised by Trump’s diagnosis were where he had been and whom he had met with in the days before he tested positive. And he’d had a busy week, including a debate against former Vice President Biden, who tested negative for the virus on Friday morning and urged everyone to wear a mask, wash their hand and practice social distancing. Here’s a reverse timeline of where Trump has been.
Trump’s chief of staff noted on Friday morning that all White House staff had been tested for COVID-19, and he expects that “as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will certainly have a positive test result.”
Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris expressed their wishes for the Trumps to make a speedy recovery, with Biden tweeting, “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”
What this means for the election:
There’s a lot still up in the air, such as whether next week’s vice presidential debate or the remaining two presidential debates on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 will be canceled. They will most likely be impacted in some way.
The president will be putting in-person campaigning on pause while he quarantines, although he can still accept donations. Biden’s schedule still sees him going to Michigan on Friday.
As for the election itself, it’s unlikely that Congress would delay the election that’s just 32 days away. But if it were to be postponed, or if the president becomes incapacitated or dies before Election Day, here’s what would happen.
Financial markets were rattled by the news, with U.S. stock futures and European equities falling overnight, and the Dow trading by about 200 points lower on Friday morning off the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis and a weaker-than-expected jobs report.
World leaders including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with the coronavirus in July, sent the Trumps expressions of concern and well wishes for their speedy recovery. Russian leader Vladimir Putin sent a telegram reading “I am certain that your inherent vitality, good spirits and optimism will help you cope with this dangerous virus.
Trump joins a small number of world leaders who have contracted COVID-19, including Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Their diagnoses have impacted their countries’ response to the pandemic in these different ways.
Trump’s diagnosis also put his own response to the pandemic — which he likes to “play down,” in his own words — in even sharper focus. The president has chosen not to wear a face mask during most public engagements, despite CDC recommendations to wear a face covering to prevent spreading or contracting COVID-19. Here’s a timeline of Trump’s shifting statements on face masks and the threat that the coronavirus has posed to Americans.
By Friday morning, the U.S. accounted for about a fifth of the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 7.3 million cases including President Trump and Melania Trump, and 207,816 fatalities and counting.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC she hoped the news would bring a complete shift in the U.S. approach to managing the pandemic. “Maybe now that people that see that the president of the United States, and all the protection he has, and the first lady, having this exposure, it might be a learning experience” she said. “And more than learning, it has to be something that is acted upon.”
This is a breaking news story that will continue to be updated.