US president and his aides rarely wear masks despite health guidance that it can help curb the spread of the disease.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was in quarantine and awaiting results from a test for COVID-19 after Hope Hicks, one of his closest advisers, tested positive for the disease.
“I just went for a test and we’ll see what happens,” he told broadcaster Fox News, confirming Hicks had the virus and saying he expected the results on Thursday night or Friday.
He later tweeted that he and First Lady Melania Trump, who was also tested, are in quarantine.
A source familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency that Hicks was suffering from symptoms of the coronavirus, which usually include a fever and a cough.
Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
Hicks travels regularly with the president on Air Force One and, along with other senior aides, accompanied him to Cleveland for the first presidential debate with Democrat Joe Biden on Tuesday.
She was also with Trump at a campaign event in Minnesota on Wednesday and flew back to the White House with him on the Marine One helicopter after the rally.
More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and Trump has been heavily criticised about his response to the pandemic. He and his aides rarely wear masks, and nor do many of the thousands of supporters who attend his election rallies.
Asked about Hicks, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “The president takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously.”
Testing but no masks
Deere said the White House takes care to follow procedures “for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the president is travelling.”
While Trump has denigrated people who wear masks, health professionals say mask wearing is one of the key things people can do to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Trump and his aides are tested regularly for the virus, as are some of those who are in the White House frequently, including some reporters.
But the White House stopped regular temperature checks for everyone who enters the complex months ago and people who are tested for the virus interact with others who are not.
With a month to go before the presidential election, Steve Clemons, the host of Al Jazeera’s ‘The Bottom Line’ said the US was facing an unprecedented situation.
“We have a fight brewing over who might fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now one of President Trump’s most intimate aides, Hope Hicks, who has tested positive after flying to a campaign rally with the Trumps in Minnesota,” he said. “Many people had been worrying about COVID passing in these kinds of rallies. It’s an extraordinary moment. If he is truly waiting for the results it shows how bad the testing regime is in America.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s spokeswoman, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus earlier this year and suffered from symptoms before recovering.
The Bloomberg news agency first reported that Hicks had tested positive for the virus.
Hicks returned to the White House earlier this year after a stint in the private sector. She was previously the White House communications director and also worked as a spokeswoman for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.