“The doctors continue to monitor both his health and the health of the first lady," the White House chief of staff told reporters on Friday

By Adam Carlson
October 02, 2020 12:31 PM
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From left: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were experiencing "mild symptoms" in the hours after they tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the White House said Friday while taking pains to stress that the president remained "energetic" and at work.

The Trumps' diagnosis — announced in a tweet shortly after midnight on Friday — quickly overshadowed the day's other events, including a new jobs reports.

"Unfortunately, that’s not what everybody’s focused on this morning," Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff, told reporters outside the White House late Friday morning.

"As all of you know, the president and the first lady tested positive for COVID-19. They remain in good spirits," Meadows said. "The president does have mild symptoms and as we look to try to make sure that no only his health and safety and welfare is good, we continue to look at that for all of the American people."

Meadows offered an optimistic picture of the first couple's health so far and, despite the president's conflicting messages about following public health guidelines, cast the coronavirus as almost inevitably contagious.

"Regardless of whatever protocol we have ... it has the ability to affect everybody," he said.

President Trump, 74, has regularly declined to wear the masks health experts say are key preventative measures, even mocking rival Joe Biden for Biden's own mask habits at Tuesday's debate. And the president has embraced large-scale campaign events since the summer despite recommendations against large gatherings, especially indoors.

Speaking with the press Friday, Meadows underlined that, in his words, Trump was still focused on the business of the presidency.

“He continues to be not only in good spirits but very energetic," Meadows said. "We talked a number of times this morning. I got the five or six things that he had tasked me to do, like I do every single morning. He is certainly wanting to make sure we stay engaged.”

"A little after 8 o’clock, the president was giving me a number of things to make sure that I get done and I’m sure that I will actually have those due ... have to be back to him later today,” Meadows said.

Around the same time Meadows spoke with the press, the first lady, 50, tweeted that she had "mild symptoms but overall feeling good."

"Thank you for the love you are sending our way. ... I am looking forward to a speedy recovery," she wrote.

Meadows told reporters that President Trump's "first question to me this morning was: ‘How is the economy doing, how are the stimulus talks going on Capitol Hill?' "

"In true fashion, he’s probably critiquing the way that I’m answering these questions and I can tell you that a number of us will be reporting back to him on the task at hand," Meadows said.

He and other aides have been tight-lipped about the exact symptoms the Trumps have shown, and Meadows declined to discuss the president's treatment so far.

“The doctors continue to monitor both his health and the health of the first lady. We’ll continue to do that," he said. "They’ll be glad to provide some updates later today as we look at this.”

Meadows did not wear a mask while briefing the press Friday morning but said he had been tested and was "hopefully" standing more than six feet away as he spoke.

He did not detail how the president is working while in quarantine and presumably unable to communicate with aides face-to-face.

Earlier this year, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany dismissed a reporter's question about what provisions had been made, if any, if the president became incapacitated by the virus. (If needed, Vice President Mike Pence would fulfill those duties under the Constitution; his staff said Friday morning he had tested negative.)

President Trump's infection and resulting quarantine is also likely to upend how — and how effectively — he can campaign in the final weeks of the race against Biden before the Nov. 3 election, as many voters across the country have begun casting early and mail ballots.

Not long after Meadows spoke with reporters at the White House, Biden, 77, announced that he had tested negative for the virus.