Shock rippled through the country as President Trump revealed on Twitter on Thursday night that he and First Lady Melania Trump had both tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory virus that has so far killed over 200,000 Americans and infected millions.
Although it’s unclear if he’s symptomatic, at 74, Trump is at higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. Melania Trump is 50, and at slightly reduced risk.
Reacting to the news, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he was “sending our love and prayers” to the couple. There is still no indication as to how quickly Pence himself may have been tested for COVID-19 on the back of Trump’s diagnosis.
In Hollywood, reactions were swift. Alyssa Milano tweeted that as someone who has had the virus and continues to suffer from its aftereffects, she “wouldn’t wish this virus on [her] worst enemy.”
Simu Liu, star of Marvel’s upcoming “Shang-Chi,” used the opportunity to remind others to wear a mask. Trump had long neglected to wear a mask during public appearances before reversing course as the coronavirus pandemic continued through the summer, and calling mask-wearing “patriotic.”
But even as recently as last Tuesday, when asked whether he was questioning the efficacy of masks during the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Trump said, “I think masks are okay. You have to understand, if you look … I mean, I have a mask right here. I put a mask on when I think I need it.”
Referring to Joe Biden, he added, “I don’t wear a mask like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
Many, like “The West Wing” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” actor Bradley Whitford, criticized Trump’s apparent resistance to heeding scientific expertise.
The president has downplayed the seriousness of the virus for months, stating incorrectly at a recent rally that “it affects virtually nobody,” and encouraging states to “open your schools.”
“Oh NOW it’s called Covid ok,” actor Suzy Nakamura tweeted, referring to Trump normally using the xenophobic terms “Wuhan Virus” and “China Virus” to describe COVID-19.
Others were skeptical that the president had actually contracted the virus.
The news came on the heels of CNN’s revelation of leaked audio tapes of Melania Trump expressing expletive-laden frustration with decorating the White House, telling an aide, “Who gives a f— about Christmas stuff and decoration?” The First Lady also lashed out at criticism of the president’s separation of migrant children from their parents at the border.
In the tapes, she can be heard saying, “OK, and then I do it and I say that I’m working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that they were separated?’ Give me a f—ing break.”
Speculation of whether the president had caught the virus began earlier in the evening, after Bloomberg had broken the news that top Trump aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19.