The president announced on Friday, October 2, after midnight that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus, joining several other high-ranking US government officials who have contracted SARS-CoV-2. Trump went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Friday evening to undergo treatment. He was discharged on Monday.
On Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19; two of her aides reportedly also have tested positive. McEnany — and others in the White House cluster — failed to immediately quarantine after Trump’s diagnosis, and she appeared in front of reporters without a mask after Trump’s diagnosis.
McEnany and other Republican officials attended a White House event on September 26 honoring the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina announced after Trump’s diagnosis they had tested positive; both were at the event, which took place indoors and outdoors. Several other people, including former senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, also tested positive after attending the event.
But it’s not just the one event. On Saturday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) also announced having tested positive. Johnson was not at the Barrett event, but he did attend a lunch with other Republican senators last week.
Beyond the relatively well-known senators, members of the press, and White House officials who have tested positive, less well-known staff members and security officers could have been infected with the coronavirus in recent days. At least one such case has already been confirmed: Bloomberg reported Saturday evening that Trump aide Nicholas Luna tested positive.
The White House, in other words, is now a Covid-19 hot spot.
While it’s not clear how the president was exposed, Trump was in regular contact last week with senior counselor Hope Hicks, who tested positive on Thursday afternoon. Hicks had traveled with Trump multiple times last week, including to Tuesday night’s presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
Over the summer, Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Bill Cassidy were diagnosed with Covid-19 but have successfully recovered. The virus has also infected at least 14 House members — nine Republicans and five Democrats — since March. But this is the first time the virus, which has killed more than 208,000 Americans, has spread in such a concentrated manner among White House officials, staffers, and members of the press corps.
As of early Friday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen have both tested negative, as have Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe tested negative as well.
Trump and his staff have been traveling to campaign events for several weeks. Just in the last week, the president has held rallies in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, in addition to the debate in Ohio. Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, tested positive Friday night.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, flew with Trump to the debate, and on Friday said she was getting tested and isolating “out of an abundance of caution.” Later that day, she said she had tested negative, as did Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA).
One way to mitigate the outbreak from the event is to undergo a major contact tracing operation, though it appears the White House has made few efforts on that front so far. As Vox’s Dylan Scott explained, the only way to figure out the full extent of the outbreak is contact tracing: “identifying who has been in close contact with the president since he became contagious, and asking them to quarantine to prevent Covid-19 from spreading to others, and to get tested themselves.”
The Trump campaign announced in a statement Friday that he and his family are suspending in-person events. Pence’s campaign travel will continue and he plans to participate in the vice presidential debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday.
Here’s what we know about who has tested positive — and negative — for SARS-CoV-2 so far.
The people in the White House cluster who have reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus
- President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump
- Hope Hicks, senior counselor to President Trump
- Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary
- Karoline Leavitt, McEnany aide
- Chad Gilmartin, McEnany aide
- US Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah
- US Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina
- Kellyanne Conway, former senior White House counselor
- Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager
- Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor
- Nicholas Luna, an assistant to President Trump
- John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame
- Greg Laurie, a pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California
- Three journalists from the White House press corps, including Michael Shear of the New York Times
- A White House press staffer, according to the White House Correspondents’ Association
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel have also recently tested positive. Johnson and McDaniel were not at the Amy Coney Barrett event, but McDaniel had contact with Trump in the days before it.
A brief list of key politicians and officials who have tested negative
Given the level of uncertainty created by this news, Vox has compiled a list of key administration figures who help run the country, key lawmakers who have been in contact with the president, and key Democrats in the 2020 election cycle who have recently gotten negative test results for the virus.
While it could take several days for an individual who has contracted the virus to test positive, these are the initial negative tests. Here’s a partial list so far:
- Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Jill Biden
- Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence
- Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
- Attorney General Bill Barr
- Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe
- White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
- Republican Reps. Pete Stauber and Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who traveled with Trump last week, according to a reporter from the MinnPost
- Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who had been in contact with Trump in the past week, according to a CBS reporter in Atlanta
- Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas
- Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma
- Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
- Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska
- Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri
The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.