Shocking many, early Friday morning Donald Trump sent out a short tweet. “Tonight, FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
The reaction was a brief moment of stunned silence from much of the media, followed by a flurry of activity. Politicians on both sides of the aisle issued terse, brief “get well soon” messages. Joe Biden, Trump’s election opponent, wished his opponent well and remained conciliatory.
The News Breaks
Many immediately noted how bizarre the news was. After months of downplaying the virus and promising it would simply go away, Trump had been diagnosed with it. The stunned reaction quickly gave way to speculation and misgivings.
Is the president telling the truth about this? Some accused Trump of not even having the virus, but instead trying to use it as an excuse to sidestep the coming presidential debates.
This seems unlikely, as the White House’s top physician, Dr. Sean Conley, gave an official report on the president’s health. While Trump is known for bending the truth and telling outright fabrications, that is almost certainly not the case here. Dr. Conley told reporters that he doesn’t believe Trump is currently exhibiting any symptoms of the virus.
Melania Trump, his wife, is similarly feeling well for the time being. “Thank you for the love you are sending our way,” the first lady tweeted. “I have mild symptoms but overall feeling good. I am looking forward to a speedy recovery.”
Response to Diagnosis
Only a month remains before the election. Trump falling ill so close to election day is a nightmare scenario for his campaign. Moreover, the optics of the president himself contracting an illness that he has downplayed to the public are abysmal.
Many pundits noted that this diagnosis shattered the image of Trump as being invincible to controversy and scandal.
Notably, Joe Biden tested negative for COVID-19 shortly after Trump tested positive. This indicates that the social distancing used during the presidential debate Tuesday worked, or that Trump had yet to actually contract the virus earlier in the week.
What this Means
Many pundits have pointed out that Trump, 74, is in the demographic at highest risk of health complications from the coronavirus. As such, his diagnosis represents the most pressing threat to the physical health of an active president in years.
Stock futures plummeted at the news of Trump’s diagnosis. Only hours before his diagnosis was made public, Trump appeared on Fox News to discuss Hope Hicks, a top White House aide who recently tested positive for COVID.
During that appearance, he once again seemed to downplay the urgency of the virus. A few short hours later, he was confirmed to test positive for the virus.