Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus


Mr. Trump’s positive test result posed immediate challenges for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, with barely a month until Election Day. Even if Mr. Trump, 74, remains asymptomatic, he will lose much of his remaining time on the campaign trail. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.

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.” Appearances at rallies in Wisconsin on Saturday and in Arizona on Monday also appear sure to be scrapped, and the next debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, was left up in the air.

During late-night conversations, aides to Mr. Trump were discussing whether he should give an address to the nation on Friday from the White House or find some other way for him to reassure the public. But the aides were still in a state of shock as they absorbed the news, and there was no immediate word on how far the infection may have spread among senior White House officials, who generally do not wear masks in deference to the president’s disdain for them.

Trailing in the polls, the president in recent weeks has increasingly held crowded campaign events in defiance of public health guidelines and sometimes state and local governments. When he accepted the nomination on the final day of the Republican National Convention, he invited more than 1,000 supporters to the South Lawn of the White House and has held a number of rallies around the country since, often with hundreds and even thousands of people jammed into tight spaces, many if not most without masks.

There is no one closer to Mr. Trump than Ms. Hicks, who returned to the White House this year after leaving her position as communications director in 2018, and on Wednesday traveled with the president on Air Force One to Minnesota. She began feeling sick around the time of the campaign rally he held there, according to one person familiar with the events, and was quarantined on the return flight to Washington, where she disembarked from the back entrance of the plane.

Her positive diagnosis came on Thursday, according to the person familiar with her case, but the White House made no announcement about the situation, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, who had also been on the plane and exposed to Ms. Hicks, then held a briefing with reporters without mentioning it or wearing a mask.

Only after Bloomberg News reported Ms. Hicks’s condition did Mr. Trump confirm it during an appearance on Thursday night on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, where he said he was waiting for his own test results.

The positive tests will undercut Mr. Trump’s effort to change the subject of the campaign away from a pandemic that polls show most Americans believe he has mishandled and onto political terrain he considers more favorable. The president has sought to focus voter attention instead on violence in cities, his Supreme Court nomination, mail-in ballots and Mr. Biden’s relationship with liberals.

Mr. Trump is the latest world leader to become infected. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was so sick that he had to be hospitalized before later recovering. Prince Charles likewise contracted the virus, as have the leaders of Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala and Bolivia.

But the symbolism of an infected American president could rattle allies, as well as governors and business owners trying to assess when and how to reopen or keep open shops, schools, parks, beaches, restaurants, factories and other workplaces. Eager to restore a semblance of normal life before the election, Mr. Trump has dismissed health concerns to demand that schools reopen, college football resume play and businesses return to full operation.

There is a long history of presidents falling seriously ill while in office, including some afflicted during epidemics. George Washington was feared close to death amid an influenza epidemic during his second year, while Woodrow Wilson became sick during Paris peace talks after World War I with what some specialists and historians believe was the influenza that ravaged the world from 1918 through 1920.

Four presidents have died in office of natural causes: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt, while Wilson endured a debilitating stroke and Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack in his first term and a stroke in his second. Four others were assassinated in office: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.

But such health crises in the White House have been rarer in recent times. Since Reagan was shot in 1981, no president has been known to confront a life-threatening condition while in office.



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