WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Friday he will “most likely” be tested for the novel coronavirus, as questions swirled about why he, his top aides and his family weren’t doing more to protect themselves and others after repeated exposure to COVID-19.
Trump has now had multiple direct and indirect contacts with people who have tested positive for the pandemic virus, which on Friday prompted him to declare a state of emergency as schools and workplaces across the country shuttered, flights were canceled and Americans braced for war against the threat.
Trump spent time last weekend at his private club in Florida with at least three people who have now tested positive. The Brazilian Embassy in Washington announced 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 and an individual who attended a fundraiser Sunday with Trump, according to two Republican officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private health matters.
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.
Multiple lawmakers and citizens across the country who have had the same degree of exposure have opted to voluntarily quarantine themselves and get tested out of an abundance of caution.
But Trump, who has long tried to minimise the threat posed by the virus, insisted Friday — contrary to the advice of many medical professionals — that he did not need to isolate himself because he wasn’t exhibiting symptoms. He conceded that he would “most likely” submit to testing “fairly soon,” but continued to flout public health officials’ advice by repeatedly shaking hands with attendees during a Rose Garden press conference on efforts to combat the pandemic.
Even so, Trump told the nation, “All Americans have a role to play in defeating this virus.”
“Anyone can be a carrier for the virus and risk transmission to older Americans and those with underlying health conditions,” Trump said, adding, “We must take all precautions and be responsible for the actions that we take and that we see other people take.”
The president, according to two people close to the White House, has 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, especially as he tries to calm stock markets amid historic drops, and has expressed concerns that taking personal steps could undermine that appearance.
Asked whether he was being selfish by refusing to isolate himself to avoid potentially infecting others and what advice he had for people who may be receiving contradictory messages, Trump said, “I think they have to listen to their doctors.”