US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have contracted COVID-19, with the US leader taking to social media on Friday to confirm the development.
“We will get through this TOGETHER!” he wrote.
The extraordinary setback for Trump had immediate political consequences just 31 days before election day, forcing him to cancel campaign trips and adding new volatility to a contest already steeped in tension.
Trump’s challenger, Democrat Joe Biden, is well ahead in the polls and has made criticism of the Republican’s handling of the coronavirus — and frequent downplaying of the pandemic’s seriousness — a key issue.
Trump, in response, has been betting on an evermore aggressive schedule of campaign rallies around the country. The events, which he says prove his true political strength, bring together thousands of people, often without masks and sometimes in contravention of local rules.
That strategy is now in doubt, with the White House immediately canceling a planned campaign rally in the crucial swing state of Florida later Friday.
It looked certain that Trump would have to cancel a trip scheduled for this weekend in Wisconsin, another battleground. He had also been expected to travel frequently next week, including longer distances to western states.
A second televised debate with Biden is scheduled for October 15.
Technically obese and in his 70s, Trump is in a higher-risk category for coronavirus patients.
Trump’s official physician, Sean Conley, said in a statement that the president and his wife “are both well at this time.”
“They plan to remain home at the White House during their convalescence,” he said. However, “I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.”
– Close aide gets virus –
The shock news came right after one of Trump’s closest advisors, Hope Hicks, was reported Thursday to have come down with the virus.
Hicks, 31, traveled with Trump to Cleveland for his first debate with Biden on Tuesday. She was with him again for a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.