Donald Trump says that he and his wife Melania have tested positive for Covid-19, and will begin to quarantine immediately.
The President and first lady received tests after close aide Hope Hicks started to show symptoms. Ms Hicks tested positive earlier on Thursday night.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Trump wrote: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
The move immediately threw into chaos the race for the presidency, barely 30 days away.
The president - and likely most of his inner circle - will be required to quarantine for 15 days. The second debate with Democrat Joe Biden is due to take place on 15 October.
At 74 years old, Mr Trump falls into a greater risk category for Covid-19 than his 50-year-old wife Melania. Mr Biden, 77, would also be considered “at risk” because of his age.
While Mr Trump’s doctor said in a statement that both Trumps were “well at this time”, the positive diagnosis represents the most serious known public health scare to a sitting president in recent American history.
It could also seriously impact the November election. Over the years, many US presidential races have been jolted by shocking news, close to election day, that have threatened to upend the race.
Yet few “October surprises” will have had the kind of reverberations expected from Mr Trump’s testing positive, having for months played down the threat of the virus, even as the death toll in the US passed 200,000, and the total number of infected Americans hit 7.2 million.
In the early hours of Friday, as news of his positive test broke on the US east coast, the death toll stood at 207,789, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
The First Lady also issued her own statement on Twitter, saying: “As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19.”
She added: “We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.”
Mr Trump had announced late on Thursday that he and the First Lady were beginning a “quarantine process” after White House counselor Ms Hicks came down with the virus, though it wasn't clear what that initially entailed.
The diagnosis marked a major blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them even as cases continue to rise with less than four weeks to go before election day.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday, Mr Trump had said he was awaiting results of a Covid-19 test. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don't know,” he said, adding that first lady Melania Trump was also awaiting results.
Ms Hicks traveled with the president multiple times this week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, and aboard Air Force One to Tuesday night's first presidential debate in Cleveland. She was seen by reporters both with and without a face mask.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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