President Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House physician announced late Thursday, underscoring major challenges facing the country as it seeks to contain the pandemic while raising new uncertainty surrounding the country's leadership weeks before the election.
Presidential physician Sean Conley said in a memo released by the White House late Thursday night that President Trump and the first lady "are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence."
“The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions. Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments," Conley added.
The White House uses Abbott rapid response tests, with the first couple receiving their COVID-19 results after being tested earlier in the day.
The announcement came hours after news broke that White House adviser and top aide to the president Hope Hicks tested positive for the disease. Both Hicks and the president had been together on Air Force One in Cleveland for the presidential debate as well as a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.
News of Hicks's COVID-19 status raised questions about whether others would test positive for the virus, with the president and first lady both saying Thursday night that they would quarantine while awaiting their results.
Trump took to Twitter just before 1 a.m. on Friday to confirm that he and his wife had tested positive, with the White House also releasing the memo from his physician confirming their diagnoses.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.
The first lady also tweeted early Friday to note that like "too many" other Americans she and her husband would have to quarantine after testing positive for the disease.
“We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together,” Melania Trump wrote.
Vice President Pence tweeted around 2 a.m. Friday morning that he and second lady Karen Pence were sending "our love and prayers to our dear friends President @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS Melania Trump."
"We join millions across America praying for their full and swift recovery. God bless you President Trump & our wonderful First Lady Melania," he added.
More than 7.2 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. More than 207,000 have died while over 2.8 million have recovered, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“The strength of the entire country is with President @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted early Friday morning.
Trump, the first lady and Hicks’s positive diagnoses add to the number of White House and administration staff who have contracted the disease since the start of the pandemic.
Other officials have tested positive in past months, including Pence’s communications director Katie Miller and national security adviser Robert O’Brien. In addition, a valet for the president had also tested positive for COVID-19.
The White House issued a schedule for the president for Friday after he confirmed the test results. The president is still scheduled to hold a call “on COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.”
Trump will not travel to Sanford, Fla., to hold a scheduled campaign rally on Friday. The White House did not immediately issue any additional information on the president or the first lady’s long-term schedules following the results of their coronavirus tests.
Aides to the president told The Washington Post that his political events will be canceled for the foreseeable future.
It is unclear at this point the full extent to which the virus has impacted the Trump administration and who will be tested for COVID-19.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has tested negative "every day this week," his spokesman Ben Williamson told The Hill early Friday morning.
A White House official said on Thursday night that contact tracing has been done following Hicks’s diagnosis, "and the appropriate notifications and recommendations have been made."
"White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is traveling," deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
It is unclear how President Trump's diagnosis will upend stalled coronavirus relief negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders.
House Democrats on Thursday approved a $2.2 trillion spending package of COVID-19 relief after last-ditch negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to reach a bipartisan deal.
The White House is also in the midst of a Supreme Court nomination battle. Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court last week, and Senate Republicans are poised to confirm Barrett during the last week of October ahead of the November presidential race.
The positive test results also inject fresh uncertainty in the presidential race, which had already been rocked in recent weeks by a fight over the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has broadly sought to make the November election a referendum on Trump's handling of the virus, bringing up the United States's status as the country with the highest number of cases and early testing lags to criticize Trump.
Trump and Biden faced off in their first presidential debate Tuesday night, locking horns over the administration's efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, among other topics.
Biden noted during the debate that Trump privately told journalist Bob Woodward in February that the coronavirus was "more deadly" than the flu, despite saying otherwise in public at the time. Trump's remarks to Woodward were published last month in a book.
The Democratic rival used the debate to cite Trump's response to the high COVID-19 death toll last month when he said "they are dying. That's true. And you – it is what it is."
"It is what it is because you are who you are," Biden said to Trump on Tuesday. “The president has no plan. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was."
At another moment, Biden turned to look into the camera, saying, "How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the table because someone died of COVID-19?"
Trump pushed back on the criticism, arguing the death toll would have been higher if Biden were president. He also touted his decision in January to shut down most travel into the U.S. from China, something he has frequently highlighted.
The two candidates did not shake hands or interact closely onstage at the debate, though were onstage together for more than 90 minutes.
For months, Trump declined to wear a face covering in public, despite the urging of his top public health officials who sought to tamp down on a spreading number of cases in a several southern and western states at the time.
Trump wore a mask for the first time in July during a visit to Walter Reed hospital in Maryland to visit wounded service members and health staff who had cared for COVID-19 patients. Since then, Trump has worn a mask on several occasions and referenced it for the press, something he did during Tuesday's debate as well.
With his positive test, Trump joins a number of other world leaders who have contracted the disease, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Monaco's Prince Albert II. Johnson, in particular, suffered a serious case of COVID-19 and spent three nights in the intensive care unit in April as that nation battled a high number of cases.
Other leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had to quarantine after being around someone who tested positive for the disease. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also went into home isolation in March after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive.
A number of lawmakers in the U.S. have also recovered from COVID-19, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) as well as at least a dozen House members. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in May that they had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, indicating they too had likely contracted the virus.
Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (L) tweeted his best wishes to the president and first lady early Friday.
“Best wishes to the president and first lady on a full recovery, and for the health and well being of their family, White House staff, and those around them,” Amash tweeted.
Others acknowledged the gravity of the president himself contracting the disease given the number of precautions taken to keep him away from those believed to be at risk of having the virus.
“If the president can get it, anyone can get it," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said early Friday morning on MSNBC.
"It really is punishing. It's unforgiving. It draws no distinction between Republicans and Democrats,” he said.
The California Democrat said that while he doesn't want to see Trump's symptoms get worse, the positive test "should be a wake up call for all of us to get serious."