By Steve Herman
U.S. President Donald Trump, suffering from the coronavirus, was taken by helicopter from the White House to a nearby military hospital Friday afternoon, where he was expected to remain for at least several days.
The president, with a wave and a thumbs-up gesture to reporters, boarded Marine One on the White House South Lawn and flew to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which has a suite that allows presidents to work from the hospital.
After the helicopter landed at the hospital, Trump walked to a vehicle for the short drive to the main building’s entrance.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the president will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
There was no immediate transfer of power from the hospitalized 74-year-old president to Vice President Mike Pence, who was at his official residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory, according to White House officials.
Trump “remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day,” according to the press secretary.
Less than 24 hours after he and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19, the president was given, at the White House, a yet-to-be approved, unproven but promising treatment.
Trump “received a single, 8-gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibodies,” the president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a memo to McEnany. “He completed the infusion without incident.”
A high dose of the antibody cocktail, REGN-COV2, has prompted levels of the virus to decrease more quickly in infected, nonhospitalized patients, potentially indicating the treatment may help them get better, Regeneron reported last week.
As of Friday afternoon, “the president remains fatigued but in good spirits,” said the doctor, who is a U.S. Navy commander.
Media reports, quoting sources, said Trump was suffering from chills, a fever and headache.
Conley added in his statement that the first lady “remains well with only a mild cough and headache, and the remainder of the first family are well and tested negative” for the coronavirus.
“It is a very moderate case” of the coronavirus that has infected the president, according to his economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who spoke to a group of White House reporters. “The president is going to get healthy soon.”
The president’s illness comes a month before the November election. His opponent, Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, said on Friday that he was sending “prayers for the health and safety of the first lady and the president of the United States.”
Biden added that the president’s positive test for COVID-19 was a “bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously.”
Trump and Biden were about 4 meters apart on a debate stage Tuesday evening in Cleveland, Ohio. Biden’s campaign said the former vice president on Friday tested negative for the coronavirus.
Speaking Friday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Biden, wearing a surgical mask, called again for a national mask mandate, asserting that it could save 100,000 lives in 100 days.
The coronavirus has killed more than 208,000 people in the United States and infected 7.3 million across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Trump’s campaign Friday put on hold all previously announced events involving the president’s participation.
“Vice President Mike Pence, who has tested negative for COVID-19, plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events,” said the campaign’s manager, Bill Stepien, in a statement.
In the early morning hours of Friday, Trump tweeted: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Minutes later, the White House released a memorandum from the president’s physician, Conley, confirming the positive tests for the Trumps.
Melania Trump later tweeted, “As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.”
In another tweet, the first lady acknowledged she also had “mild symptoms but overall feeling good.”
Trump, who for months has played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, on Thursday evening confirmed during a telephone interview on the Fox News Channel that he and the first lady had been tested after one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, was confirmed to have been infected.
Hicks, counselor to the president, traveled with Trump to Pennsylvania for a campaign rally on Saturday, then to Cleveland for the presidential debate on Tuesday and to Minnesota for campaign events the following day.
Hicks was showing symptoms at a political rally Wednesday evening in Duluth, Minnesota, and tested positive Thursday morning, according to officials who spoke on condition of not being named.
Fundraiser in New Jersey
Trump, however, flew Thursday with some top officials to New Jersey for a political fundraising event, where he was in close contact with dozens of people.
During the telephone interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, the president suggested Hicks could have contracted the virus from members of the military or law enforcement.
“It is very, very hard when you are with people from the military, or from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you, because we really have done a good job for them,” Trump said. “You get close, and things happen. I was surprised to hear with Hope, but she is a very warm person with them. She knows there’s a risk, but she is young.”
The president, in his 70s and overweight, is in a high-risk category for the coronavirus, but until Friday he was otherwise believed to be in good health.
Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for COVID-19 early Friday, according to spokesman Devin O’Malley. The spokesman said the vice president “remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that he and his wife, Susan, had also tested negative.
Pompeo said he and his wife were examined on an airplane 20 minutes before landing in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The country’s top diplomat told reporters upon arrival that he last saw Trump on September 15 at the White House and said, “We are praying for the president and first lady that they’ll have a speedy recovery.”