(CNN) — A country, already on edge by a devastating health catastrophe and a turbulent political season, faces a new chapter this Friday when Americans woke up to the news that President Donald Trump had contracted covid-19.
The president made the announcement on Twitter at nearly 1 a.m. Miami time Friday morning, and the development, after months of debilitating losses, in the face of a poorly managed and overseen federal response by a commander-in-chief who repeatedly downplayed the crisis, threw further confusion into the country’s leadership at a time of deep national tension.
In his announcement, Trump insisted: “We will get out of this TOGETHER!” His wife, who also tested positive, wrote: “We feel good.”
But the optimistic outlook could hardly hide the widespread sense of destabilization that is building. The events come as the country struggles to emerge from a crisis that defines a generation as its politics seem to deteriorate to new lows. Stock market futures fell. Inside the White House, aides described a sense of panic as they worked to determine who else may have contracted the disease and if the president – who falls squarely in the category at greatest risk for serious complications and who has been cautious not to reveal details of his health — he was showing symptoms. The positive diagnosis of the first couple also made staff at the White House executive residence, where the Trumps are currently isolated, “nervous,” a source familiar to CNN told.
People around Trump will be tested for covid-19
In light of the president’s positive test, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who shared the stage with Trump in his first debate on Tuesday, was expected to take a coronavirus test Friday morning, according to a source familiar with his plans.
Vice President Mike Pence’s Press Secretary confirmed on Twitter this Friday morning that Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for covid-19.
Questions remained as to why the president proceeded with his Thursday schedule, including flying to attend a fundraiser in New Jersey, despite being in close contact with an aide, Hope Hicks, of whom a small group of advisers knew. that he was positive for coronavirus.
Trump said the pandemic was coming to an end
Just hours before announcing his diagnosis, Trump told a virtual audience that the pandemic was coming to an end.
“I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the best years in the history of our country,” Trump said during a pre-recorded statement given to the Al Smith Dinner, convened virtually this year due to the outbreak.
Four hours later, the president’s program for Friday, which had included a fundraiser in Washington and a campaign rally in Florida, was scrapped. The only remaining event will be at 12:15 p.m., when the president makes a phone call about covid-19 support for vulnerable older people.
This was the first indication of how this year’s presidential race will once again be reshaped due to surprising circumstances. But this time it happens about a month before the elections. Trump is likely to cancel a series of campaign events scheduled next week, including in Arizona. Any attempt to divert attention from the pandemic and its response, which has caused poll numbers to plummet, now seems unlikely.
Trump has downplayed the covid-19 pandemic
Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay the pandemic – remember, he told journalist Bob Woodward in February that he “always wanted to play down” – even as his administration’s own health experts begged Americans to take the virus. seriously.
Despite the fact that some of his closest global allies, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, contracted the disease, Trump continued to downplay it and ignore the idea that he himself it could catch it.
You have used a mask infrequently, and in the chaotic debate Tuesday night he mocked Biden for wearing a mask too often. Rather than heed the recommendations on physical distancing, Trump has held large campaign rallies where his supporters stand shoulder to shoulder, often without masks, to hear him speak.
Trump has pushed for economic reopening amid the pandemic
Since the spring, Trump has lobbied governors to allow businesses to reopen and recently lobbied for schools to allow in-person learning. He has criticized restrictions on churches to hold their meetings indoors and criticized Democratic governors who continue to uphold the rules against large gatherings.
Regardless, Trump has insisted that the extensive testing regime at the White House would protect himself from contracting the virus.
“Tonight, for example, everyone has had a test and you have had physical distancing and all the things you have to do,” he said during the debate on Tuesday, explaining why masks were not necessary in that environment.
However, your staff’s efforts to protect you from the virus clearly fell short. In a memo sent after midnight Friday, the White House physician, Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley, said Trump was “Good”, although he did not specify if he showed symptoms.
“They plan to stay at home inside the White House during their convalescence,” he wrote about the president and the first lady.
“The White House medical team and I will be constantly vigilant, and I appreciate the support provided by some of the best medical professionals and institutions in our country,” continued Conley, without elaborating on the assistance that was being provided to patients. White House doctors.
The diagnosis equates to the most serious known health threat to a sitting US president in decades, at least since President Ronald Reagan was shot nonfatally in 1981.
Trump has not been particularly forthcoming with details about his physical health, even when he made a last minute trip to Walter Reed National Medical Center, last year. The White House said it was starting early on its physical exam, but declined to say what tests were performed at the facility.
In a reading of his physical, Conley said this spring that Trump was in “very good health,” but he listed a height and weight that put him in the obesity category. It is also known to have a common form of heart disease.
There is no preparation for a transition
A temporary transition of power from commander-in-chief to vice president is established in section three of the 25th Amendment, a constitutional change brought about by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It has been used periodically since presidents must undergo anesthesia for medical procedures.
There was no indication that Trump was preparing to use the 25th Amendment.
“Please be assured that I hope the President will continue to serve without interruption while he recovers, and I will keep him informed of any new developments,” Conley wrote in his memo.
Pence wrote on Twitter: “We join millions across the United States in praying for his full and speedy recovery.”
If both Trump and Pence are unable to carry out their duties, the Presidential Succession Act designates the speaker of the House of Representatives as next in line. When asked in May whether the White House was making contingency plans to hand over power to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany scoffed.
“That’s not even something we mean,” he said. We keep the president healthy. We keep the vice president healthy and, you know, they are healthy right now and will continue to be. “
– CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta, Paul Murphy, Betsy Klein, Kate Bennett, and Jamie Gangel contributed to this report.