The President and First Lady Have Coronavirus.

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 1, 2020 (UPDATED Oct. 2)

The President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. He announced just before midnight that both he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive:

This development poses a risk not only to the president’s reelection campaign, but also to his health. He is a 74-year-old-man of considerable girth; older Americans are more likely to face complications from COVID-19. Houston affiliate ABC 13 cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in writing that “people in the 65-74 age range face a five times greater risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 compared to young adults between the ages of 18-29.”

Excess weight is also likely to cause complications from the virus; CNN reported in June that Trump weighed 244 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall. “That gives him a body mass index of 30.5, making him technically, if mildly, obese,” ABC 13 added. Obesity triples the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19, according to the CDC. These factors would appear to place the president in particular peril.

Accordingly, his schedule has been adjusted. According to the New York Times, “The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors’.” If the president remains in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, he would have to miss a second debate with Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15.

Hope Hicks — one of the president’s closest advisers — tested positive for COVID-19 last night. Hicks flew with the President on Air Force One, both to and from the debate on Tuesday night. Then she flew to Minnesota with him on Wednesday for a rally (!). Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs delivered the news last night:

According to the Associated Press, Hicks began having symptoms while on the plane ride home on Wednesday. “Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday,” wrote Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in their AP column.

The president and first lady entered quarantine within hours. Trump tweeted last night that he and First Lady Melania Trump were awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens.”

Now we know what happened. The President has tested positive.

It is a stunning reversal for a man who routinely downplayed the severity of the pandemic. Jokingly referring to it as the “Kung Flu”, Trump blamed China for the virus. He mocked people for wearing masks (he did that just yesterday, the New York Times says). And he once claimed that it would disappear, “like a miracle”, from our shores.

The question now is how the president (and first lady) became infected. If the president’s exposure to COVID-19 was days ago, a positive test is still possible in the future. “If it was even five days ago, and he tests negative now, he still may end up testing positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “And so this is why that quarantine period is so important,” she explained on “CNN Tonight” last night. The program aired footage of Hope Hicks and other advisers boarding the plane Marine One

During the broadcast, host Don Lemon pointed out that no one in the group was six feet apart OR wearing masks. Hicks was reportedly maskless during her flights with the president. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated that the White House will “incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for COVID-19 “to the greatest extent possible”. But nobody on Marine One was wearing masks.

Interestingly, both Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have tested negative, per CNBC. “As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day,” said Devin O’Malley, the vice president’s press secretary, in a tweet. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery,” he said.

UPDATE: Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have both tested negative for the coronavirus. ABC News announced the news in a “Breaking News” update roughly an hour ago; the news has been confirmed by MSNBC.

UPDATE (5:10 pm, Oct. 2): The president is now being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. He will be flown there aboard his Marine One helicopter, which is standard procedure (according to CNN). “Out of an abundance of caution, and 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. 

The New York Times quoted two sources who said the president has been experiencing a low-grade fever, nasal congestion, and a cough. His doctor issued a memo, cited by the Times, that said Mr. Trump remains “fatigued but in good spirits”. The memo also revealed that Trump is receiving an experimental drug — an antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron.

The president just boarded Marine One, according to NBC News.

UPDATE (10/5/2020): The President has left the hospital and returned to the White House. According to the Associated Press, “Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” After putting the mask in his pocket, Trump “gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.” Just yesterday, Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s doctor, said that he was still contagious and not “fully out of the woods” yet. But here he is, back at the White House.

This is a developing story. Please watch this space for further updates.

Calls Mount for End to White House Briefings After Trump’s Tantrum

By Terrance Turner

The President of the United States held a press briefing on Thursday to update the public on the coronavirus. During the briefing, he touted the drug hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria and arthritis, as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Preliminary tests had shown promise for the drug. Trump called it a “game-changer” that could help thousands. He added that the drug would be made available “almost immediately” with a prescription. Trump even said people would have access to the drug “literally within a few days.” But the Food and Drug Administration begged to differ. That same day, the FDA released a statement saying that “there are no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19”.

The next day, at another briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci (the head of the White House coronavirus task force) was asked if hydroxychloroquine could be used as a “prophylaxis” against the virus. “The answer is no,” Fauci said plainly. “The evidence you’re talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence,” he continued, addressing the reporter by name. “But the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled, clinical trial.”

Trump stepped to the mic, conceding that “what the doctor said is 100% correct.” He added. “We’ll see. We’re going to know soon.”

NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander pointed out that the president’s own words had painted a different picture. “Yesterday, Mr. President, you said that they were for, quote, ‘immediate delivery’.”

“Yes, we have millions of units ordered,” the president responded. “I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to — in particular — one of these drugs. And we’ll see how it works out, Peter. I’m not saying it will, but I think people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer.”

“Dr. Fauci said that there’s no magic drug for coronavirus right now, which you would agree—”

“Well, I think we only disagree a little bit”, the president interrupted. (Crosstalk ensued.) “I disagree,” he said. Maybe, and maybe not. Maybe there is; maybe there isn’t. We’ll have to see.”

“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Trump answered. “Such a lovely question,” he said sarcastically. “Look — it may work, and it may not work. And I agree with the doctor, what he said. . .. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling. I’m, you know, a smart guy.”

Alexander’s next question set off a powder keg. “What do you say to the people who are scared, though? Nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who are sick [in the U.S.]. Millions, as you’ve witnessed, who are scared right now? What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say,” Trump fumed. “I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’” He wasn’t done: “That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows? I’ve been right a lot.”

Watch the full exchange below:

This morning, the White House held another briefing. While Trump was talking about unity in our “beautiful, big American family”, his campaign was sending emails to supporters that further attacked Alexander. The Hill reported earlier today on the email’s contents: “President Trump was in the middle of delivering a positive, uplifting message to Americans who may be afraid, and Peter Alexander was triggered by it,” the email claims. “Perhaps if Alexander hadn’t been so determined to undermine the President’s message, he would have heard it.”

As for the briefing itself? This time, things unfolded rather smoothly, with the president deferring to experts and generally behaving himself. But the damage was already done. After yesterday’s exchange, many called for networks to end live coverage of Trump’s briefings. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explicitly called for the practice to end last night on The Rachel Maddow Show.

She has been joined by a chorus of voices who say that the president lies so frequently that it does a disservice to viewers: