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Week In Politics: President Trump, First Lady Test Positive For The Coronavirus


The president of the United States has tested positive for a virus that he has publicly, openly doubted and minimized at times. Melania Trump has also tested positive, as have a number of close aides and U.S. senators. Today the president's at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a patient and is expected to stay there at least several days.

NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And first, what do we know about the president's health?

ELVING: Last night, we had an update from one of his doctors, Sean Conley, saying the president is doing, quote, "very well," unquote. He said the president was not requiring supplemental oxygen but that he had started Remdesivir therapy.

Now, last night, of course, the president was flown to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The White House said this was, quote, "out of an abundance of caution," unquote, and that the president would be working there for a few days in the presidential office at the center where he can be monitored for further symptoms. He had reportedly experienced some coughing and congestion and a moderate fever on Friday. The diagnosis had originally been made known in the wee hours of that morning.

SIMON: Ron, certainly nobody wants or wishes the coronavirus on anyone. And President Trump certainly didn't want to begin the last month before an election as a patient in Walter Reed with a disease that he's often diminished.

ELVING: Clearly not. He's been yearning to get back out on the campaign trail. He wanted to have the big events that he's had in the past that are the wellspring for his style of politics. And while they cut back on those for months in deference to the virus, they tried to jumpstart them, of course, last June - that abortive event in Tulsa that didn't fill the seats and resulted in some spreading of the virus. They held off again for a while, then they began again last month with a - kind of a scaled-back version - things like airplane hangar rallies, where supporters jam into a semi-indoor space, with few wearing masks or observing social distance.

It also appears, Scott, that the president should have known on Thursday or may have known on Thursday that Hope Hicks, his staff adviser, had tested positive and been in close contact with him and that that circumstance might have prompted some protective measures. But the president went on to the fundraiser in New Jersey Thursday night anyway.

SIMON: And let me ask about this spread all around the circle of the president - not just Hope Hicks, but his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, his former adviser, Kellyanne Conway, three journalists, reportedly, who worked at the White House, two Republican Senators - Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Given the incubation period for this virus, testing has to continue.

ELVING: And, of course, that is essential at this point, even beyond the usual battery of testing they had been doing. Vice President Mike Pence, to be sure - he has a debate with Democratic nominee for Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday. By the way, both those candidates have tested negative so far. And also Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who has also tested negative, she has met in recent days with something like two dozen Republican senators in person, including Mike Lee. And the White House staff also needs to be checked. Some, of course, have been checked before, but others will be now.

SIMON: And, of course, Joe Biden shared the debate stage with him in Cleveland. And there was a whole lot of shouting going on, although Mr. Biden and Jill Biden have tested negative.

ELVING: Yes. Yes. So far, they have. And Biden appeared in public yesterday wearing a mask. But as NPR has reported, negative tests do not necessarily mean you're in the clear.

SIMON: Ron, what's it say about this country and the coronavirus that a person with matchless access to the best medical opinion and personal security still gets infected?

ELVING: It says matchless access does not guarantee immunity. You still have to do the right things and show concern for the way your actions affect others. It also shows we all need to re-examine our notions of being safe or out of the woods. No one should rely on youth or privilege or other illusions of invulnerability.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.