President Trump tests negative for coronavirus; White House begins screening
WASHINGTON — After days of resisting screening for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump tested negative for the virus, officials said Saturday night. Meanwhile, the White House began checking the temperature of anyone coming into close contact with the president and other officials.
Prior to his testing, Trump said his personal physician told him he didn’t show symptoms and didn’t need to take the test. But Trump decided to do it anyway after repeated questions from reporters about why he was hesitating to undergo screening when he had been exposed to at least three people who have tested positive for the virus.
The White House released the test results just hours after Trump told reporters that he had been tested and that his temperature was “totally normal.” He was recently in contact with three people at his Florida resort who have tested positive for the virus, including two aides to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
“One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation in Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free,” Sean Conley, the president’s physician, said in a memo.
Multiple lawmakers and countless citizens across the country who have had the same degree of exposure have not only tried to get tested, but also chosen to quarantine themselves as a precaution and to avoid potentially infecting others.
The pandemic has now infected more than 2,200 people in the U.S. and caused at least 50 deaths.
The president, according to two people close to the White House, had been reluctant to take the test for fear it would project weakness or worry. Trump wanted to appear in full control during the crisis, and had expressed concerns that taking personal steps could undermine that appearance.
But as the White House grappled with repeated exposures by Trump and multiple senior aides, it tightened precautions. On Saturday, the White House announced that it was conducting temperature checks on anyone who was in close contact with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, including reporters who attended the White House briefing Saturday and anyone entering the Oval Office.
To that end, a representative from the White House physician’s office took the temperature of members of the media at the briefing, going around and putting a device to their heads. One reporter with a suspected elevated temperature was not allowed in.
Pence wrote a memo to White House staff Saturday reminding them to take precautions such as avoiding physical contact, washing hands frequently and staying home when sick to help the administration keep the virus at bay.
“It’s imperative each one of us do our part to take the proper precautions to keep ourselves and our colleagues safe,” Pence wrote. “As an employee aboard the White House Complex, we have an additional duty to protect the health of our Executive Branch and those working with us.”
Trump, 73, is considered to be at higher risk of complications from the disease because of his age. He has long tried to minimize the threat posed by the virus and continued to engage in behaviors that health officials are warning the public against.
On Friday, Trump shook the hands of multiple officials at his Rose Garden news conference and he has continued to appear at large gatherings despite tweeting Saturday morning that Americans should be practicing “SOCIAL DISTANCING!”