President and First Lady test positive for coronavirus
Last night, shortly before midnight eastern time, President Donald Trump announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for COVID-19.
As is his regular practice, the president made the announcement on his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account. The message, posted at 11:54 p.m. eastern time, concluded, “We will get through this together.”
Reporters who last saw Trump when he returned to the White House Thursday night said he “did not appear visibly ill.”
The White House physician said the President and First Lady have no symptoms, a statement which seemed to initially reassure financial markets. S&P 500 and Dow Jones futures were down significantly immediately after the announcement as were Asian stock markets, but futures recovered some in the early hours of Friday.
Trading when the east coast stock exchanges open at 9: 30 a.m. today will be an important early indicator of how the country reacts to the news.
The fact that Trump has played down the COVID-19 threat during the last eight months makes him the inevitable target of derision from those critical of his handling of the pandemic. Social media immediately exploded with glee from many sources.
World leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, himself a COVID-19 survivor, sent good wishes for Trump’s health.
Former Vice-President Joe Biden had made no comment as of the time of this writing at 6 a.m. Friday.
On Thursday, it was announced that top White House aide Hope Hicks had not been feeling well while traveling on Air Force One with the president after the debate in Cleveland Tuesday night with former Vice-President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger in the presidential election. Hicks tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Washington.
There was already speculation about whether or not Vice President Mike Pence might become acting president if Trump becomes sick. The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides mechanisms for that to happen if a president becomes unable to serve. That speculation is pre-mature. Trump, as president, has available the best of electronic communications and a large professional staff that would allow him to carry out his duties if he is merely puny.
There is no way of knowing at this early time whether Trump will get sick at all. He is 74 years old and is considered vulnerable because of his age. However, he has no known major health problems and has never been a smoker of cigarettes or consumer of alcohol. He is overweight, but his total cholesterol is just 167.
Not everyone infected with the coronavirus develops symptoms. The severity of symptoms varies widely and unpredictably among those who do become ill.
Without doubt, the fact that the President is infected with COVID-19 throws an additional element of uncertainty into a presidential election campaign that is already the most chaotic in more than a century.
Trump’s diagnosis could be a serious blow to his re-election campaign, but it will not dampen the enthusiasm of his most devoted supporters. More likely, it will have little impact on the Nov. 3 vote.
Many commented that Joe Biden appeared frail during the Tuesday night throw down in Cleveland.
If Trump does not get terribly sick, he can be counted on to brag about how vigorous he is. One cannot rule out his getting a “sympathy bounce” if he is able to project an image of being fully in charge during the next four weeks.