Trump Kept Regular Schedule After Learning Close Aide Hope Hicks Had Covid
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump learned on Thursday morning that his aide Hope Hicks tested positive for coronavirus, yet continued on with a full schedule of events, including a fundraiser at his New Jersey resort that raised $5 million, according to people familiar with the situation.
Trump’s movements are being closely scrutinized since he later tested positive for coronavirus, announcing the news shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, Washington time. The White House has not said when Trump first tested positive for the virus, but Trump said late Thursday he was awaiting results.
In between learning the news of Hicks’ infection Thursday morning and announcing his own early Friday, Trump stuck to his prepared schedule. That decision would appear to contradict the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on COVID, which reads:
“Even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home (quarantine) since symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.”
It was not known whether Trump was tested Thursday morning after receiving the news of Hicks’s positive test.
“As soon as he found out, he was tested. And as soon as he tested positive, he went in quarantine,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said on Bloomberg TV. ”I can’t give you the chronology because I wasn’t there.”
On Thursday, Trump had no publicly scheduled events that morning after a late-night return from a rally in Minnesota, a trip that Hicks also attended. She was separated from the rest of the White House staff on Air Force One on the trip home Wednesday night after falling ill.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a briefing shortly before noon on Thursday, taking the podium without a mask. At that time, she did not know Hicks had tested positive, she said.
After Trump learned definitively that Hicks had the virus Thursday morning, White House quickly changed plans for who would travel on Marine One and Air Force One to the New Jersey fundraiser.
“We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and in close contact. The reason why it was reported out, just frankly, is that we had already started the contact tracing just prior to that event,” Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters at the White House Friday.
Meadows did not wear a mask while briefing reporters. Asked why he didn’t, Meadows said, “I’ve obviously been tested. We’re hopefully more than six feet away and if there’s any concern there from a guidance standpoint, we have protocols in place.”
A negative test does not guarantee a person will not transmit the virus. The incubation period, or the time between exposure and displaying symptoms, is known to be between two and five days.
Trump left the White House at 1 p.m. Thursday, not stopping to speak to reporters before boarding his helicopter. He flew on Air Force One to New Jersey, and then by helicopter into his Bedminster golf club for the fundraiser.
“Attendees tested negative for COVID-19 on the day of the event, completed a wellness questionnaire, and passed a temperature screening,” Mandi Merritt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. “Every guest was at least 6 feet from the president at all times.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Friday said officials were conducting contact tracing and urged attendees at the event to get tested and self quarantine.
The health department of Somerset County, where the event was held, said on Friday that it has contacted the golf course to ask for a list of staff, event participants and others who may have been exposed.
Trump returned to the White House and called into the show of Sean Hannity, a Fox News commentator, at 9 p.m., by which point Bloomberg News had revealed Hicks had tested positive.
In the interview, Trump said he had just learned of Hicks’s test, though didn’t specify when. He said he and his wife were awaiting test results, which the White House released shortly after midnight.
No one knew Trump was positive on Thursday, but some suspected it, people familiar with the matter said. White House staff are worried that much of this could spread, or already has spread, throughout the West Wing. Senior aides on Thursday discussed various eventualities for what would happen if Trump tested positive. Others awoke to the news on Friday.
CDC guidelines would advise him to quarantine after getting clear of the virus, a schedule that could keep Trump off the campaign trail for the foreseeable future.
Trump has canceled all events on Friday, including a planned rally in Florida, and his future campaign schedule remains in doubt.
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