Military leaders downplay concerns after Trump contracts coronavirus


Military officials downplayed worries Friday after President Donald Trump announced overnight that he had tested positive for coronavirus and will be forced into medical quarantine for an undetermined period of time.

In a statement, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said they have not made any adjustments to force posture or operations as a result of the president’s diagnosis. Trump tweeted just after midnight on Friday that both he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive and would begin their “recovery process” immediately.

“There’s been no change to our alert levels,” the statement said. “The U.S. military stands ready to defend our country and its citizens. There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces.”

A Defense Department official told Military Times that military leaders would “continue to monitor the situation around the world and maintain our level of readiness.”

Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020

Earlier on Thursday, Trump announced that one of his senior advisers, Hope Hicks, had tested positive for the illness, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans over the last seven months and more than 1 million individuals worldwide.

In a Fox News appearance Thursday night, Trump suggested that Hicks may have contracted the illness from a member of the military during a recent campaign stop.

“It’s very, very hard when you are with people from the military or law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug and want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them,” he said. “You get close and things happen.”

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Trump has not held any official rallies or meetings at military bases in recent weeks, but has traveled through Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington nearly every day this week en route to other events around the country.

One of those was Tuesday’s first presidential debate in Ohio, where the president, members of his family and a number of campaign staff members (including Hicks) were present.

It is not clear whether any of the group were symptomatic or exhibiting signs of illness at that time. White House pool reporters attending that event said that most members of the president’s entourage refused to wear a mask at the indoor event, while most of the family and staff accompanying former Vice President Joe Biden did.

During the debate, Trump pushed back on accusations he had not taken enough personal precautions to avoid the fast-spreading virus.

“I think masks are okay,” he said. “I put a mask on when I think I need it. Tonight, as an example, everybody’s had a test and you’ve had social distancing and all of the things that you have to. But I wear masks.”

Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 2, 2020

Staff for Vice President Mike Pence said Friday morning that he has not tested positive for coronavirus, and “remains in good health.” White House officials did not immediately outline what new responsibilities he may take on while the president is in recovery.

Reporter Meghann Myers and Military Times managing editor Howard Altman contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Please stay with Military Times for updates.


Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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