Trump to move to military medical facility for next few days

Trump waves to members of the media as he leaves the White House in Washington to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct 2. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump moved to a military hospital for treatment on Friday after being diagnosed with Covid-19 as his administration and election campaign scrambled to adjust to an extraordinary twist in his turbulent presidency.

Roughly 17 hours after he announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, Trump walked slowly from the White House to a waiting helicopter to be taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

He wore a mask and business suit, and he did not speak to reporters.

“I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” Trump said in a brief video posted to Twitter.

Trump will work in a special suite at the hospital for the next few days as a precautionary measure, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Trump, 74, has a mild fever, according to a source familiar with the matter.

White House doctor Sean P Conley said he is being treated with an experimental drug cocktail and is “fatigued but in good spirits”.

It was the latest recent setback for the Republican president, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election.

Trump, who has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, wrote on Twitter earlier on Friday that he and his wife Melania were going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and severely damaged the US economy.

An active Twitter user, Trump has not posted any messages since then.

Trump is at high risk because of his age and weight.

He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.

Conley said Trump has received an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2.

The drug is one of several experimental Covid-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, which are used for treating a wide range of illnesses.

US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci is among those saying the technique has promise.

Trump is also taking zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin.

Stocks on Wall Street closed lower as news of Trump’s diagnosis added to mounting uncertainties surrounding the election.

The president’s illness upended his re-election campaign with just 31 days to go until Election Day.

The campaign said it would postpone rallies and other events where he was scheduled to appear or take them online.

Biden pulled ads attacking Trump off the air but otherwise continued his campaign after testing negative for the virus.

At a union hall in Grand Rapids, Biden said he was praying for his rival’s recovery.

However, he also implicitly criticised Trump, who rarely wears a mask in public and has held huge campaign rallies with little social distancing.

“Be patriotic,” Biden said.

“It’s not about being a tough guy. It’s about doing your part.”

Trump’s illness also raised questions about the health of others atop the US government.

Vice-President Mike Pence, who would take over if Trump were to fall severely ill, has tested negative, a spokesman said.

The former Indiana governor, 61, is working from his own residence several miles from the White House.

Trump did not transfer power to Pence as other presidents have sometimes done while undergoing medical treatment, according to a White House official.

Pence took over Trump’s planned calls with governors and retirees’ organisations.

His Oct 7 debate with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris will go forward as planned, organisers said.

Harris has also tested negative for the virus, according to the campaign.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line for the presidency, also had tested negative, a spokesman said.

The Republican National Committee would choose a replacement nominee if Trump were to become incapacitated, but it is already too late in most states to change the names on the ballot.

Some 2.9 million people have already voted, according to figures compiled by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

The virus could also complicate Trump’s push to install conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.

At least two people who were at a White House event to announce her nomination, University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins and Republican Senator Mike Lee, said Friday they have tested positive.

Barrett herself tested positive for the virus earlier this year and has since recovered, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Trump is the latest world leader to be tested positive for the virus, which can cause a severe respiratory infection.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was rushed into intensive care after falling gravely ill in March.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called the virus a “little flu” after being infected in July.

Both men recovered.