President Donald Trump said Saturday that he took the test to determine whether he had contracted the new strain of the coronavirus and he was awaiting for the results.
He made the announcement at a White House news conference as his administration announced it was expanding European travel restrictions to the United Kingdom and Ireland. The ban is scheduled to go into effect on Monday at midnight, although U.S. citizens will be allowed to return to the country.
Trump also said he was considering whether to implement limitations on domestic travel, “specifically from certain areas,” although he did not name any.
“If you don’t have to travel, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “We want this thing to end. We don’t want a lot of people getting infected.”
The president’s decision to get tested came after a back-and-forth over whether he should take such a step. Last weekend Trump came into contact with two Brazilian officials at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, who later reportedly tested positive for the illness.
On Friday afternoon, Trump said he would “most likely” get tested. But hours later the White House released a letter from his physician saying it was not necessary because Trump is “low risk.”
The president said Saturday at a news conference with top administration officials that he decided to move forward anyway.
“I also took the test last night,” Trump said. “I decided I should based on the press conference last night.”
Although the results were not yet available, Trump said he had his temperature checked shortly before stepping in front of the podium and it was “totally normal.”
The issue has become increasingly controversial as Trump has tried to downplay the threat of the virus even as many people around him have reported exposure. Any doubt about a president’s health can rattle the public and the financial markets, which are already badly shaken by the pandemic.
Sean P. Conley, a Navy commander and osteopathic doctor assigned to the president, wrote in his letter that Trump, while dining with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last weekend “briefly came into contact with an individual who 3 days later began showing symptoms and was subsequently confirmed to have COVID-19.” The letter says Trump shook hands and took a picture with the person, separately reported as Brazilian press secretary Fabio Wajngarten.
The letter says that on Friday evening the administration learned of a second dinner guest who shared a table with Trump, “who was symptom-free until this morning,” and has now tested positive. The Brazilian Embassy reported that the person is Nestor Forster, Brazil’s acting ambassador to the United States.
Trump has sent mixed messages about the new virus, alternately telling people to remain calm, that the country soon would be free of the threat, and then on Friday declaring a national state of emergency. During a news conference announcing the declaration, he shook hands with several of the officials who shared the platform with him, despite official guidance to avoid such germ-spreading behavior.
Several Republican members of Congress as well as Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows, decided to self-quarantine after attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, where they interacted with a person known to be infected. Trump also spoke at the conference, held two weeks ago.
Trump was asked about his own exposure to the virus during the news conference Friday. At first, he dismissed the risk.
“I take pictures and it lasts for, literally, seconds,” he said. “I don’t know the gentleman that we’re talking about” who tested positive.
“I think they have to listen to their doctors, and I think they shouldn’t be jumping to get the test unless it’s necessary,” he said.
Later, when asked if he was “being selfish by not getting tested and potentially exposing” others, Trump shifted course, saying he would “most likely” get tested “fairly soon.”
©2020 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.