When President Donald Trump stepped into the dining room of his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday, high-dollar attendees gathered for a fundraiser there thought he seemed a little off.
Subdued from a week of campaigning, maybe. Hoarse from a string of large rallies. Perhaps a little pale underneath the crystal chandeliers.
“Exhausted,” described one person who saw him.
Little could those guests know that the tired-sounding man sitting across the white brocade tablecloth would test positive, hours later, for coronavirus.
Nor were they aware that before he arrived, both Trump and his senior aides received information suggesting he could have been exposed — and therefore could be contagious. Like usual, the President wasn’t wearing a mask.
Trump’s positive diagnosis, announced in a tweet during the small hours on Friday morning only after word leaked his top aide Hope Hicks had become infected, has thrown the nation’s leadership into tumult and sent the capital scrambling to determine who else might be infected.
Questions of government continuity arose in ways they haven’t in years; Trump’s diagnosis amounted to the most serious health threat to an American president since the non-fatal shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Suffering only “mild” symptoms, according to the White House — which include a fever, a person familiar with the matter said — Trump alternated Friday between upbeat entreaties to aides to go about business as usual and more worried-sounding brooding about his health, according to a person familiar with the matter. He canceled all of his upcoming campaign travel and failed to appear for a scheduled phone call midday with state and local officials to discuss the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable senior citizens.
“I know many of you were expecting to hear from President Trump today, but as I’m sure you are all aware, President Trump and the first lady tested positive for Covid-19,” Vice President Mike Pence, acting in his stead, told the officials.
In a memo Friday afternoon, Trump’s physician wrote that he “remains fatigued but in good spirits.” He said Trump had been administered a Regeneron polyclonal antibody cocktail and has been taking zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin. The decision to give Trump an experimental monoclonal antibody cocktail is a sign of how concerned the White House may be by the diagnosis, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst and professor at George Washington University, said.
The story of how Trump contracted coronavirus was still being learned on Friday as aides hurriedly tried to trace who he’d been in contact with and whether they themselves might be contagious. At 74-years-old, clinically obese and with known heart ailments, Trump himself fits within a high-risk category.
Yet taken in