By JILL COLVIN and ZEKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID-19 after revealing Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunged the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election.
Trump, 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 the president was expected to continue carrying out his duties “without disruption” while recovering. A White House official said Friday morning that the president was experiencing mild symptoms but was working from the White House residence.
Trump’s diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus had spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled 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,” Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. “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.
Many White House and senior administration officials were undergoing tests Friday, 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. Officials with the White House Medical Unit were tracing the president’s contacts.
Trump was considering how he might address the nation or otherwise communicate with the American people Friday, an official added.
Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and did not appear ill. He is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide.
The president’s physician said in a memo that 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.” Their son Barron, who lives at the White House, tested negative.
Trump has been trying all year to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind. In the best of cases, if he develops no symptoms, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble, it will likely force him off the campaign trail just weeks before the election and puts his participation in the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, into doubt.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Democrat Joe Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware citing concern about the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said of Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”