White House: Trump Tests Negative for Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) -
President Donald Trump speaks at a press briefing with members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House in Washington, March 14. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

President Donald Trump has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to the president’s personal physician.

The White House released the test results Saturday night after Trump told reporters hours earlier that he had taken the coronavirus test, following days of resisting being screened despite the fact that he had been in recent contact with three people who have tested positive for the virus.

Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Saturday that he had his temperature taken and it was “totally normal,” shortly before stepping into the room to discuss the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus. The pandemic has now infected more than 2,200 people in the U.S. and caused at least 50 deaths.

The president had multiple direct and indirect contacts with people who have since tested positive for the virus, including three people he spent time with last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

The Brazilian Embassy in Washington said late Friday that the country’s chargé d’affaires, Nestor Forster, tested positive after sitting at Trump’s dinner table. So, too, have a top aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took a photo with Trump and attended a party with him, and another person who attended a campaign fundraiser with the president that Sunday, according to two Republican officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private health matters.

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 has wanted to appear in full control during the crisis, and had expressed concerns that taking personal steps could undermine that appearance.

The White House is stepping up efforts to try to keep the virus at bay.

On Saturday, the White House announced that it is now conducting temperature checks on anyone who is in close contact with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, including reporters who attend a White House briefing and anyone entering the Oval Office.

Pence also 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.

“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.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is helping coordinate the U.S. response to the outbreak, noted that testing results reflect a snapshot in time and that it’s crucial for people to maintain precautions.

“When you get a negative test, that means you’re negative that day,” Birx said. “That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t get the virus spreading overnight, because it replicates in your nose and your nasal secretions, and you would have a positive test tomorrow.”

Trump also told reporters at a White House briefing that he had his temperature taken and it was “totally normal” before stepping into the room to discuss the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus. The pandemic has now infected more than 2,200 people in the U.S. and caused at least 50 deaths.

Trump had held out on testing for days — concerned that it would make him appear weak — despite his interactions with at least three people who have since tested positive for COVID-19.

Several top administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, also met last week with an Australian Cabinet minister who on Friday was confirmed positive.

The White House has been saying, citing CDC guidelines, that the president and other White House officials don’t need to be tested or isolate themselves unless they are exhibiting symptoms, even though that advice is contradicted by many health professionals who note that the virus can be spread even by people who are asymptomatic.

The reporter who was not allowed into the White House briefing Saturday had a temperature above the 100.4-degree guidelines in three checks over 15 minutes, tweeted Pence’s spokeswoman, Katie Miller, citing the White House Medical Unit.

Public health officials say that people with a cough and elevated temperatures of 100.4 degrees or higher are deemed concerning.