The White House has insisted that US president Donald Trump would continue to lead the country from hospital, as the president was transported to the Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday night after contracting coronavirus.
Mr Trump was transferred by helicopter to the presidential suite at the military medical centre just 13km(eight miles)north of the White House, less than 24 hours after he confirmed he had tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Trump, who was wearing a mask but did not speak to the media as he left the White House and boarded Marine One, had remained silent on Twitter and did not appear in public on Friday after announcing on Twitter that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for Covid-19. He later tweeted a pre-recorded message after landing at the hospital.
In a short pre-recorded video he tweeted just after landing at the Walter Reed Medical Center, Mr Trump said: “I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out. The First Lady is doing very well, so thank you very much. I appreciate it. I will never forget it.”
“President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
“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. President Trump appreciates the outpouring of support for both he and the First Lady.”
Mr Trump(74)is in a high-risk category for Covid-19. Shortly before his departure for the Walter Reed, White House physician Sean Conley said Mr Trump was being treated with an experimental cocktail of antibodies developed by biotech company Regeneron, as well as several medicines including famotidine.
The development comes as the US presidential election campaign enters its final stretch, with election day in exactly a month’s time.
While Mr Trump cancelled all his forthcoming in-person campaign events, his presidential rival Joe Biden held an event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as planned yesterday afternoon. Wearing a mask for the entire speech, he began by sending his prayers “for the health and safety of the president and first lady”.
US president Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC as he heads to Walter Reed Military Medical Center after testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty
Under the constitution, the vice-president steps in if a president is incapacitated. But White House officials last night stressed that there had been no transfer of power. Vice-president Mike Pence, who was at his home at the Naval Observatory on Friday night, tested negative for coronavirus on Friday.
Several other officials and cabinet members close to the president were also tested and were found to be Covid-free including treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.
The Democratic contender for US president Joe Biden(77)tweeted on Friday night: “This cannot be a partisan moment. It must be an American moment. We have to come together as a nation.”
Mr Biden’s campaign is understood to have taken down all negative campaign advertisements. Mr Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden received negative test results for Covid-19 on Friday.
Mr Trump’s doctor said he was being treated with an experimental drug aimed at supplying antibodies to help fight his coronavirus infection.
Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs. They attach to a virus and help it be eliminated, but it can take weeks for them to form. The drugs are purified versions of ones that seemed to work best in laboratory and animal tests.
Mr Trump is receiving a two-antibody combination drug that is currently in late-stage studies from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
The company previously developed a successful treatment for Ebola using a similar approach.
It is given as a one-time treatment through an IV. Mr Trump’s physician, Dr Sean Conley, said the drug was being given “as a precautionary measure”, and that the president was also taking zinc, vitamin D, an antacid called famotidine, melatonin and aspirin.
None of those have been proven to be effective against Covid-19. Mr Trump apparently is not receiving hydroxychloroquine, a drug he widely promoted that has been shown in many studies to be ineffective for preventing or treating Covid-19.
On Friday, it was announced Mr Trump was experiencing “mild symptoms” of Covid-19 after announcing that he and his wife Melania tested positive for coronavirus.
The president, who has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, said he and Mrs Trump were quarantining.
The White House physician said Mr Trump is expected to continue carrying out his duties “without disruption” while recovering.
A White House official said Mr Trump was experiencing mild symptoms.
Mr Biden and Mr Trump took part in a live debate on Tuesday, leading to concerns that the Democratic candidate may also have contracted the virus.
“I’m happy to report that Jill and I have tested negative for COVID,” Mr Biden tweeted on Friday. “Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern. I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he had spoken with Mr Trump on the phone and he was in “good spirits”.
Mr Trump’s diagnosis is sure to have a destabilising effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus has spread through the highest levels of the US government.
Hours before Mr Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a senior aide who had travelled with him during the week had tested positive.
“Tonight, FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” Mr Trump tweeted. “We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Vice president Mike Pence tested negative for the virus on Friday morning and “remains in good health”, his spokesman said.
Trump boards Marine One prior to departure to Walter Reed Military Medical Center. Photograph: Saul Loed/AFP via Getty
Many White House and senior administration officials are undergoing tests, but the full scale of the outbreak around the president may not be known for some time as it can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test.
Mr Trump was previously last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear visibly ill. As well as being 74 he is overweight, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than seven million people nationwide.
The president’s physician said in a memo that Mr Trump and the first lady, who is 50, “are both well at this time” and “plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence”.
The diagnosis is a devastating blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them.
In the best of cases, if he develops no symptoms it is likely to force him off the campaign trail weeks before the election and puts in doubt his participation in the second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15th.
His handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Mr Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware because of the virus.
Mr Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Mr Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” the president said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200ft away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
In a tweet on Friday morning, Mr Biden said he and his wife “send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family”.
Vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband tweeted similar sentiments.
On Friday, Mr Trump had been scheduled to receive an intelligence briefing, attend a fundraiser and hold another campaign rally in Florida, but the White House released a revised schedule with only one event: a phone call on “Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors”.
Mr Trump’s announcement came hours after he confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of his most trusted and longest-serving aides, had been diagnosed with the virus on Thursday.
She began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, and was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane.
Ms Hicks had been with Mr Trump and other senior staff aboard Marine One and Air Force One en route to that rally and had accompanied the president to Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, along with members of the Trump family. The Trump contingent removed their masks during the debate, in violation of the venue rules.
Multiple White House staff have previously tested positive for the virus, including Mr Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and one of the president’s personal valets.
But Mr Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable, even after White House staff and allies were exposed.
Since coronavirus emerged earlier this year, he has refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing face coverings in public and practicing social distancing. Instead, he continued to hold campaign rallies that drew thousands of often mask-less supporters.
“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters in May. – Additional reporting Agencies