“This is positive news,” John Harwood comments, “but it’s not dispositive.” It’s good news on its face that Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen have tested negative for COVID-19, but the infection in the White House is recent enough that the Pences could still be in the gestational stage of the disease. Pence and Donald Trump had campaigned together recently, but it’s not clear when Trump first got exposed.
Harwood does take the time to editorialize in this report, which we’d better get used to hearing during Trump’s quarantine. That was the bet the White House and Trump campaign made with their aggressive campaign strategy, and the dealer finally won the hand. The bigger issue, however, is that CNN hears that Trump was actually symptomatic before his test, which has not yet been confirmed and which Trump denied last night:
Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for coronavirus Friday morning, according to a spokesman. @JohnJHarwood reports. https://t.co/iaFTwyK24s pic.twitter.com/Mym6hOKXD7
— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2020
As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day. This morning, Vice President Pence and the Second Lady tested negative for COVID-19. Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery.
— Devin O’Malley (@VPPressSec) October 2, 2020
With the Trumps sidelined for at least a week and probably two after their positive test, Pence will face pressure in both directions. The campaign will want him to pick up the slack on events to replace Trump. However, continuity-of-government risks will likely keep Pence close to home in case Trump’s case gets more serious. Pence will likely err on the side of caution, in part because Pence doesn’t generate the same kind of interest for rally-event attendance. He’d be better off fundraising at the residence over Skype at this point, especially since the White House now has to show it’s taking this seriously.
Speaking of which, it might have been better to take it a bit more seriously before now:
Chris Christie, who helped the President with debate prep, says "no one was wearing masks" as "5 or 6 people" helped Trump get ready for the contest. The former New Jersey governor says he will be tested this morning. https://t.co/chAMBz8mpX pic.twitter.com/dDrheasj8P
— CNN International (@cnni) October 2, 2020
The White House has insisted that daily tests made it unnecessary to use masks, but that misses the point of the disease’s gestation before symptoms appear. It’s possible to test negative and yet still have been exposed. A daily test on one’s self and anyone entering one’s bubble does reduce the risk significantly, but as we are seeing now, it doesn’t eliminate it. It’s been long enough that Christie’s first test will likely be more dispositive. Hopefully this has been isolated for now.
Update: Just after this post went live, the president’s physician released a statement:
Trump's physician, Sean Conley, said in a memo that the president and first lady were “both well“ and that Trump would continue to carry out his duties as president. Conley did not mention whether Trump was exhibiting any symptoms. https://t.co/3Zf384bUcl pic.twitter.com/61Mb7UtLy9
— POLITICO (@politico) October 2, 2020
No mention of being symptomatic or asymptomatic, but the phrase “both well” strongly hints at the latter.
Update: The AP reports that Trump and the First Lady have “mild symptoms,” a term that they put into quotes:
President Donald Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID-19 after revealing Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election.
Trump, who has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, said he and Mrs. Trump were quarantining. The White House physician said the president is expected to continue carrying out his duties “without disruption” while recovering. A White House official said Friday morning that the president was experiencing mild symptoms but was working from the White House residence.
That’s not great news. Let’s hope it doesn’t develop into worse news.