‘Fatigued’ Trump hospitalized for Covid treatment, campaign grounded
A “fatigued” President Donald Trump was to be hospitalized Friday for a “few days” and was taking an experimental Covid-19 treatment, the White House said after bombshell news that the Republican had contracted the virus a month from election day.
“At the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the president will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
The hospitalization indicated an intense effort to make sure that the president’s reportedly “mild” initial symptoms do not deteriorate.
The development also highlighted the uncharted waters for the US election on November 3, with Trump — who is well behind his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in the polls — having to freeze much of his campaign.
Trump first revealed in the early hours of Friday on Twitter that he and his wife, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the coronavirus. And from there, events moved rapidly.
Staff gave comparatively rosy early morning assessments, with Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows saying the president, 74, had only mild symptoms, was in “good spirits” and feeling “very energetic.”
Later Friday, a letter issued by White House physician Sean Conley indicated something more serious.
Conley said that Trump received a single dose of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, a treatment undergoing clinical trials but not yet approved by regulators.
“He’s being evaluated by a team of experts, and together we’ll be making recommendations to the President and First Lady in regards to next best steps,” Conley wrote.
Biden out on his own
Trump’s illness upended the race for Biden, who suddenly found himself alone on the campaign trail — and able to argue that his own distinctly more cautious approach to Covid-19 had been vindicated.
Biden has made Trump’s frequent downplaying of the pandemic and mixed messaging on mask wearing a central campaign theme, arguing the president is to blame for the scale of the crisis in the United States, where more than 200,000 people have died.
Biden, who stood in close proximity to Trump for 90 minutes during their ill-tempered first debate Tuesday in Cleveland, announced that he and his wife Jill had taken tests and were negative.
Underlining his sudden advantage in the bitter race, Biden, 77, traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, going ahead with a previously scheduled campaign stop.
Biden said he was praying for Trump and his family, and his campaign announced it would take down all negative ads. However, Biden also reminded Americans that he has pushed consistently for taking coronavirus seriously, unlike the man who has repeatedly mocked him for his rigorous use of masks yet now finds himself infected.
“Be patriotic,” said Biden through a blue surgical mask. “It’s not about being a tough guy. It’s about doing your part.”
The shock announcement was a huge upset to the Trump reelection effort, trigging a freeze on plans to barnstorm the country in an attempt to catch up with Biden.
The Trump campaign said all planned events involving the president were either being postponed or going virtual — starting with the cancellation of a rally Friday in Florida, one Saturday in Wisconsin and others in western states like Arizona next week.
Even the second Trump-Biden debate, scheduled for October 15, is now in some doubt.
Despite White House assurances that Trump continued to work, he did not hold the one item left on his public agenda Friday: a phone call to discuss what was billed as “Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors.”
The White House would not say if Trump would soon be addressing the nation.
McEnany only told Fox News: “You’ll be seeing and hearing from the president as he moves forward.”
News of Trump’s infection came right after one of his closest advisors, Hope Hicks, tested positive — sparking fears of a cluster of cases emanating from the heart of the White House.
Trump met with dozens of people through the week and reportedly went to a fundraiser in New Jersey after it was known Hicks had contracted the virus.
The White House said it was carrying out contact tracing, while Melania Trump’s spokeswoman said the couple’s 14-year-old son Barron had tested negative.
Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all let it be known they had tested negative, and the White House said Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was a negative too.
Technically obese and in his 70s, Trump is in a higher-risk category.
Doctor Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease specialist in the New York area, told AFP Trump had an estimated 20 percent chance of developing severe disease requiring oxygenation.
As the news rattled global stock markets, leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s Boris Johnson wished the president and first lady a speedy recovery — while Russia’ Vladimir Putin predicted Trump’s “vitality, good spirits and optimism” would see him through.