On Thursday night, Bloomberg News reported that Trump aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the coronavirus after exhibiting symptoms on Wednesday, when she was quarantined aboard Air Force One during the return flight from a campaign rally held in Minnesota. After Hicks’s positive test was made public, President Trump also tested positive for COVID-19.
In recent days, the trusted presidential adviser has been in alarmingly close contact with Trump and White House and campaign staffers. In addition to the rides on Air Force One this week, Bloomberg News reports that Hicks was seen sharing an umbrella with Stephen Miller on Tuesday.
While White House staffers and those close to Trump are frequently tested for COVID-19, Hicks’s positive test is another example of the virus’s ability to penetrate even the most well-resourced groups, like the president’s immediate circle. Earlier this year, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien also tested positive for the coronavirus, and in May, several White House officials had to quarantine after two staffers — including Stephen Miller’s wife, vice-presidential spokesperson Katie Miller — contracted the virus. But Hicks, for years one of Trump’s closest advisers, spends much more time with the president than other administration figures who have tested positive, leading to fears that Trump — and, potentially, Joe Biden at the Tuesday night debate — could have been exposed. Speaking with Sean Hannity on Thursday night, the president said that he was just tested: “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know … We’ll see what happens. Who knows.” Shortly after that, he tweeted that he would begin a “quarantine process,” though it’s unclear how seriously the pandemic-denying president will take self-isolation.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Judd Deere told Bloomberg News that the president “takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously,” and that “White House Operations collaborates with the physician to the president and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting Covid-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible, both on complex and when the president is traveling.”
Considering how frequently Trump appears without a mask amid throngs of his supporters, it appears that getting the president to wear a face covering in public is a step beyond the “greatest extent possible.” And considering that the administration reportedly knew that Hicks tested positive the day before it was made public, there was probably more the White House could have done to inform others who came into contact with her.