President Donald Trump has been tested for coronavirus, he revealed at an unscheduled White House briefing on Saturday.
Trump said that had been tested on Friday night, after fielding questions about it during a press conference due to contact with at least three people who later tested positive for the virus.
The president said that the test sample had been sent to a lab and that he expected to have the results within a day or two. Coronavirus tests are usually conducted by nasal swab.
Trump’s surprise claim that he had been tested followed a confusing 24 hours in which Trump first suggested he might get tested, and then released a letter from the White House doctor saying that he was low risk and did not need a test at this time.
At the briefing on Saturday, all journalists were screened for fevers before entering the briefing room as part of a new policy of checking the temperature of anyone who comes in close contact with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
One journalist was reportedly barred from entering the briefing after showing a high temperature.
White House spokeswoman Katie Miller said in a statement that the reporter’s temperature was taken three times within 15 minutes, and each time was above the 100.4 degree threshold that the CDC defines as a fever.
The White House announced earlier in the day that ‘out of an abundance of caution, temperature checks are now being performed on any individuals who are in close contact with the president and vice president.’
Pence had been scheduled to lead the briefing but Trump led it off with a surprise appearance, touting his handling of the crisis and taking credit for a massive stock market rally as he delivered a press conference during the last 30 minutes of Friday’s trading session.
Contrary to medical advice, the president was seen Friday shaking hands all round as he gathered his coronavirus response team at the White House — a practice he said Saturday owed to long-time habit as a politician but which he said would have to change.
At Saturday’s briefing, Trump also revealed that his own temperature had been checked before he entered the room.
On his way out of the room, as reporters asked him what his temperature was, he turned and shouted, ‘totally normal!’
Trump said Friday he’d ‘most likely’ get tested for the novel coronavirus, as he was grilled on his recent contacts with several members of a visiting Brazilian presidential delegation who have since tested positive.
On Friday, Brazil’s Acting Ambassador Nestor Forster tested positive for coronavirus, making him the third person who visited Mar-a-Lago with Trump last weekend to be confirmed with the virus.
The letter from the President’s doctor revealed that Trump had dinner with Forster on March 6 and both the president and his daughter Ivanka are pictured on the evening with the ambassador.
The president also came into contact with Brazilian Press Secretary Fabio Wajngarten on Saturday who tested positive and he attended a dinner on Sunday after which one of the attendees was also diagnosed. It’s not clear who that attendee is.
Forster is the third person over the space of a weekend that Trump and members of the first family encountered who have since tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.
Ivanka has now had several brushes with the coronavirus including with Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton days before he tested positive.
She stayed home on Friday but is showing no symptoms, does not need to self-quarantine and stayed home out of an abundance of caution, the White House said.
Her father told a press conference at the White House on Friday afternoon that he likely would be, after days of insisting he would not get a test.
When asked if he would be tested, Trump said: ”Most likely, yeah, most likely. Not for that reason. but because I think I will do it anyways.’
However in a letter last night, the White House doctor Commander Sean Conley said that President Trump still remains low risk and does not need to be tested – suggesting a change of heart in the administration.
‘This evening, we learned of another dinner guest, this one sharing the President and the White House delegation, who was symptom-free until this morning and has since tested positive for COVID-19,’ the in-house physician, Sean Conley, said in a letter of Ambassador Forster’s diagnosis.
‘The president’s exposure to the first individual was extremely limited (photograph, handshake) and although he spent more time in proximity to the second case, all interaction occurred before any symptom onset.
‘These interactions would be categorized as LOW risk for transmission per CDC guidelines, and as such, there is no need for home quarantine at this time.’
Trump has now been near three people within three days who have tested positive for the virus sparking further concerns that he may have been exposed.
The first Brazilian patient Trump was confirmed as meeting last weekend was Brazilian Press Secretary Fabio Wajngarten who is pictured with both Trump and Mike Pence sporting a ‘Make Brazil Great Again’ hat last Saturday.
A second person who visited Mar-a-Lago last Sunday also tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday as President Trump declared a national emergency over the pandemic and announced that he would get tested.
Ambassador Forster’s diagnosis is the third.
The Brazilian government confirmed Forster’s diagnosis in a tweet: ‘Brazil’s Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Nestor Forster has learned tonight that he has tested positive for Covid-19. Following medical advice, Amb. Forster will extend his self-quarantine, which he had already placed himself into as a precautionary measure, for another two weeks.’
Public life in the United States came to a halt on Friday as cases rose over 2,000 and the death toll hit 50 but Trump and the first family continue to resist going into self-isolation.
Trump said in a press conference Friday that he would get tested but not because he stood beside the Wajngarten on Saturday but ‘because I think I will do it anyway’.
The president continued to ignore public health experts advice throughout the conference and shook hands, patted backs and touched his microphone 31 times.
News of the second and third cases were only revealed following the press conference.
The news of the second case was revealed through an email from Republican party officials sent to other guests present at the president’s private estate last weekend.
‘If you or any of your loved ones is ill or develops a fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms, please contact your medical provider,’ the email read.
The second diagnosis involved a guest of a donor who was not in contact with Trump, according to the Washington Post.
It is not known whether the individual has developed COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The president announced the hurried press conference Friday after reports out of Brazil said the President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for coronavirus.
One of the major newspapers in Rio de Janeiro, Journal O Dia, reported the news of Bolsonaro’s positive test.
Bolsonaro, 64, was checked for the disease after his aide Wajngarten tested positive for it.
But a second test that came back on Friday showed the president tested negative, according to a statement on Bolsonaro’s official Facebook page, which is adding to the questions and confusion.
‘The Armed Forces Hospital and (diagnostic laboratory) Sabin have returned a negative test result for COVID-19 for the President of the Republic Jair Bolsonaro,’ the posting said.
It was accompanied by a photo of Bolsonaro flashing an obscene arm gesture at the press.
On Thursday, Trump brushed aside concerns about his encounter with the Brazilians – just one in a series of brushes the president has had with the highly-contagious disease.
Both Bolsonaro and Wajngarten, his press secretary, were at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night. Wajngarten had his photo take with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The third case Ambassador Forster is potentially the most risky for Trump as they spent a dinner sitting at the same table.
Trump and the first family have resisted going into self-quarantine despite other lawmakers who came into contact with those testing positive for the disease going into voluntary isolation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing if you ‘have been in close contact with a person known to have’ the virus. The agency defines close contact as ‘being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time.’
Also, according to CDC guidelines, the president would be considered ‘medium’ risk for exposure.
Other world leaders are self-quarantining. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a voluntary 14-day quarantine after his wife, Sophie, tested positive for the disease.
Several members of the first family were at the Winter White House Saturday night where there was a birthday party for Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., in addition to the working dinner for the Brazilian delegation.
One of those was Ivanka Trump, who, it was revealed late Thursday, had another brush with the disease.
She and Attorney General Bill Barr posed for a photograph with Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on March 5 – days before he tested positive for coronavirus.
Ivanka Trump stayed home on Friday but is showing no symptoms, does not need to self-quarantine and stayed home out of an abundance of caution, the White House said.
‘The White House is aware that Mr. Dutton tested positive for COVID-19. He was asymptomatic during the interaction. Exposures from the case were assessed and the White House Medical Unit confirmed, in accordance with CDC guidance, that Ivanka is exhibiting no symptoms and does not need to self-quarantine. She worked from home today out of an abundance of caution until guidance was given,’ White House Deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, said he would ‘likely’ have been tested after coming if he had come into contact with Bolsonaro’s aide who tested positive for the coronavirus.
When asked hypothetically if he would get a test, he told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’: ‘Likely I would, but I’m not sure.’
‘It depends on the circumstances,’ he added.
Wajngarten, the Bolsonaro aide who was at Mar-a-Lago for Saturday’s dinner and the birthday party, tested positive for the virus, setting off a chain of events on Thursday, including a test for his boss. Brazil has at least 73 confirmed cases of coronavirus and zero deaths thus far.
The weekend’s encounter was just the latest brush Trump has had with the coronavirus. An attendee at CPAC, the annual conservative conference that the president addressed at the end of February, tested positive for the virus.
The American Conservative Union, which sponsors the conference, was quick to say the person had no direct contact with Trump or Pence, who also spoke.
But three lawmakers went into self-quarantine because they did and all had contact with the president: new White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Rep. Doug Collins and Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Gaetz was also at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night for the dinner and birthday party. Additionally, the Florida Republican flew back to Washington D.C. with the president on Air Force One on Monday.
Trump did not hesitate to spread germs Friday by repeatedly shaking hands during his coronavirus press conference, breaking the CDC’s guidelines on how to avoid contracting the deadly virus.
But Trump wasn’t the only one to flout the safety guidelines. Vice President Mike Pence, members of the coronavirus task force and CEOs adjusted the same microphone when they came to speak at the podium.
Meanwhile, members of the media were all packed into the audience and sitting in shoulder-to-shoulder to hear Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, disregarding the call for social isolation.
There were at least 15 people, including the President and Vice President, gathered around the podium in the White House Rose Garden for the press conference.
At one point, Trump shook hands with Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO of Target Corporation, even after Cornell was seen coughing in his hand.
He also shook hands with Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, during the news conference.
When Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, approached the podium to speak, he and Trump both adjusted the microphone and their hands overlapped.
Dr. Fauci was also seen touching his face throughout the press conference.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Mike Pence could also be seen with their bare hands on the podium.
But Bruce Greenstein, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of the LHC Group, did take precaution by offering his elbow when President Trump when in for a handshake.
The president responded the elbow bump with: ‘Oh okay, I like that. That’s good.’
Trump’s national emergency declaration will allow him to access $50 billion in emergency funds.
‘The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion of very important and a large amount of money for states and territories, localities in our shared fight against this disease. Furtherance of the order, I’m asking every state to set up emergency operations centers immediately,’ Trump said.
He spoke on a day when questions mounted about whether he has been infected with the virus himself, with his daughter Ivanka in self-isolation – and as markets suffered yet another wild ride.
‘I’d like to provide an update to the American people on several decisive new actions we’re taking that are very vigilant effort to combat and ultimately defeat the corona virus, we’ve been working very hard on this. We’ve made tremendous progress,’ he said.
‘Europe was just designated as the hotspot right now. We closed that border awhile ago. That was lucky, through talent or luck, whatever you want. But through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus.
‘Like our earlier, very aggressive actions with China this measure will save countless lives.
‘To unleash the full power of the federal government did the separate today I am officially declaring a national emergency – two very big words,’ Trump said.
‘The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion of very important and a large amount of money for states and territories, localities in our shared fight against this disease. Furtherance of the order, I’m asking every state to set up emergency operations centers immediately,’ he added.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Keith Griffith and Frances Mulraney