Trump's Covid-19 timeline: The week coronavirus came to the White House

The week since Donald Trump’s debate with Joe Biden has been replete with misunderstandings, mixed messages and stunning surprises

Andrew Naughtie@andrewnaughtie
Tuesday 06 October 2020 13:16
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Donald Trump leaves hospital to drive past supporters during coronavirus treatment

There is much we still do not know about how and when Donald Trump contracted the coronavirus. The severity of his condition, too, has been the subject of intense speculation thanks to sometimes evasive and inconsistent briefings from his doctors and political staff.

However, as the saga of his infection unwinds, certain events are coming into relief. Here is a condensed version of what we know about what happened over the last week.

Tuesday 29 September

Donald Trump and Joe Biden meet for their debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr Trump and his family arrive too late to receive rapid coronavirus tests, and the president’s guests decline to wear masks while seated in the audience.

During the acrimonious debate, Mr Trump ridicules Joe Biden for covering his face in public. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” said the president. “He could be speaking 200 feet away from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Mr Trump flies back to Washington on Air Force One, along with members of his family and various staffers.

Wednesday 30 September

Mr Trump heads to Minnesota for a fundraising reception and then a large rally, at which he speaks to a mostly unmasked crowd.

Accompanying him are, among others, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, three Minnesota congressmen, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and senior aide Hope Hicks. The contingent are photographed getting on and off Air Force One and Marine One without masks.

Ms Hicks reportedly begins suffering Covid symptoms after arriving in Minnesota and is quarantined on the flight home.

Thursday 1 October

Mr Trump travels to Bedminster, New Jersey for a fundraiser.  

Later that evening, Bloomberg News reports that Ms Hicks has tested positive. Mr Trump confirms this in a tweet, writing that he and the first lady will be going into quarantine while they await results of their own.

According to the Wall Street Journal,  Trump first receives a positive result from a rapid test for Covid-19 early Thursday evening.   

Later, calling in to Sean Hannity’s Fox News show he does not mention this result and says he does not know if he is positive or not. 

Mr Trump muses: "Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don't know … We'll see what happens. Who knows." Shortly afterward, he announces on Twitter that he and the first lady have tested positive.

Friday 2 October

Key administration figures are urgently tested for the virus. Mike and Karen Pence test negative, as do Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Among those testing positive is key aide Kellyanne Conway, as well as Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien.

Also receiving positive results are Republican senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis. Both attended a White House event the previous weekend where the president formally nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court; photos from the event show people mingling closely without masks both indoors and out. Ms Barrett herself tests negative.

That evening, a memo from the White House confirms that Mr Trump is being taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre “in consultation with specialists”.

Saturday 3 October

Mr Trump’s lead physician gives a briefing at Walter Reed at which he gives an upbeat but vague account of Mr Trump’s health. He confirms the president has received experimental Covid treatments, and repeatedly avoids questions about whether Mr Trump has been on supplemental oxygen.

Immediately after the press conference, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gives an on-background statement to the pool reporters that the president is “still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery”.

After uncharacteristically tweeting only three times in a day, Mr Trump shares a video of himself speaking directly to camera from his suite at Walter Reed. A subtle hiccup a minute into the video becomes a matter of a heated debate over whether the clip has been edited to omit any coughing

Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson also tests positive for the virus, as does former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who announces he has “voluntarily” gone into hospital.

Sunday 4 October

Questions continue to mount about exactly when Mr Trump may have contracted the virus or developed symptoms as it becomes clear he has attended several events over the previous week without wearing a mask or showing much regard for social distancing.

The president’s doctors give another briefing and are again criticised for ambiguous answers that leave room for speculation and suspicion. Many point out that the fact the president is being given dexamethasone suggests he is suffering serious inflammation, as the drug is only given to people facing major symptoms.

The president tweets another video from inside the centre, this time standing up, in which he announces he will be visiting the crowd of supporters gathered outside the building. Later that afternoon, he leaves his suite and rides in a motorcade around the outside of the hospital, waving at the crowd from behind a closed window.

A memo from Mr Trump’s physician says he is “not yet out of the woods” but that his team remain “cautiously optimistic”.

Monday 5 October

The West Wing is awash in Covid.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two other press office staff members are Covid-positive. She denied knowing that Ms Hicks had been diagnosed with the virus on Thursday morning when she held a press briefing: “Moreover, I definitively had no knowledge of Hope Hicks’ diagnosis prior to holding a White House press briefing on Thursday."

Ms McEnany said in a statement that she did not list any journalists when asked by White House Operations for contact tracing information.

Yet, she removed a mask on Sunday when she gaggled with reporters outside the West Wing.

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