By Ricky Browne
US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Friday that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19 and would be going into quarantine immediately.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!,” said the President in a tweet. The tweet was retweeted more than 780,000 times and received about 450,000 comments.
Meanwhile, the First Lady tweeted with “As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.”
The president’s physician was reported as saying the couple were both “well at this time” and said he expects Trump to “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering”.
But Trump is not return to the election campaign trail for now.
Meanwhile, stock markets in Europe and elsewhere fell after the announcement, with London’s FTSE index falling by 0.6 percent.
The announcement came shortly after Trump’s senior advisor Hope Hicks was found to have contracted the disease on Thursday.
In all likelihood many other key members of the Presidential team and his family may also have contracted the disease as many of them were travelling in close proximity to each other for the Presidential Debate in Ohio on Tuesday.
Responses to the President’s tweets varied.
In a now deleted tweet Zara Rahim, a former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton who also worked for President Barak Obama stated “Its been against my moral identity to tweet this for the past four years , but I hope he dies.”
While negative remarks seemed to be the order of the day, others were more sympathetic. “The American people are praying for our POTUS and FLOTUS! Get better, we need you!” read a tweet from JT Lewis.
Meanwhile the three other players in the presidential election also made comments via Twitter.
Vice President Mike Pence said “Karen and I send our love and prayers to our dear friends President @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS Melania Trump. We join millions across America praying for their full and swift recovery. God bless you President Trump & our wonderful First Lady Melania,” the Vice President tweeted.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden was also more sympathetic. “Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family,” he said in a tweet.
Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris had a similar response. “Doug and I join Joe Biden and Dr. Biden in wishing President Trump and the First Lady a full and speedy recovery. We’re keeping them and the entire Trump family in our thoughts,” she said in a tweet.
The Trumps are now isolating at the White House.
NOT THE FIRST NATIONAL LEADER
But the President is far from being the first national leader to catch COVID-19.
Earlier in the year at least two other heads of government contracted the disease, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro. Both survived, but neither are overweight men in their mid-70s.
Other national leaders who caught COVID-19 include: Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Guatemala President Alehandro Giammattei, Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. All of them survived as well.
It has been widely reported that Trump was being quite cavalier about the disease by not taking precautions — such as wearing a mask — very seriously. In fact, he did remark at the presidential debate on Tuesday to the Democrat candidate Joe Biden, that he — Biden—- was being excessive in his mask wearing and would wear a mask “the biggest mask I’ve ever seen” even if the nearest person was 200 feet away.
DEFENCE LINES BROKEN
At the end of the debate, Melania came up to Trump without wearing a mask, but over on the other side, Biden’s wife Jill came up to him with a mask fully in place.
But taking another tack, whether or not Trump was taking full precautions, the President of the United States is the most protected man on Earth, and procedures would be in place to minimize the chances of him catching the deadly disease.
Apart from that, by his nature, Donald Trump should be a less likely candidate for the disease anyway as he is a well-known germophobe, who resists personal contact to a high degree.
So those were two lines of defense that should have protected the President from contracting the disease, to a greater degree than most other people on the planet, even if by the nature of his role, he is frequently surrounded by other people.
So, how much more susceptible are ordinary citizens, who don’t have a security detail protecting them from all incoming, who have to open their own doors, and who do not normally mind someone invading their personal space?
Some Democrats are looking at this as a God send, or karma, and are wishing that the President will be put out of commission, if not permanently, at least for a good chunk of time.
It does raise question marks over the next presidential debate due on October 15. Though it could still happen as the period of quarantine is 10 days, meaning that he could be in the clear as of October 11.
Never before has something like this happened to a US president just one month shy of a general election.
Other questions are also raised. Is Vice President Mike Pence at risk? Could power be passed onto the Democrat speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi if both the President and his Vice President are incapacitated?
How does this effect the democratic process on November 3? Will there be a bigger Republican turnout as an act of sympathy?
Could Joe Biden be in danger of contacting the disease as well, as both were at the debates at a time when Trump and others on his team could have been infectious?
It that happens, what does that mean for the election if both candidates are hit low by this disease?
It could mean that even more eyes will be on next Thursday’s Vice Presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, as the mortality of the two Presidential candidates would be in full view. How will Senator Harris who had limited popularity in the race for the Democrat nomination fare against Pence who has already been elected once on the Trump – Pence ticket, but also previously as the governor of Indiana?