Hicks had tested negative last Wednesday, the morning after Trump’s first debate with Joe Biden, but she started feeling unwell at a rally in Duluth, Minn., that night. She quarantined herself on Air Force One on the return trip, discreetly enough that other staffers did not know she was ill. When the plane landed, she exited from the rear entrance.
The next morning, Hicks reported for work at the White House and tested positive for the coronavirus. She returned home to begin isolating — but told only the president and a small circle of senior staff, including chief of staff Mark Meadows. Many colleagues, including one aide who had been near her during her potentially contagious period, were enraged when they only learned about it several hours later through the grapevine or White House contact tracers; two said they would have curtailed their contact with other people and taken a test immediately had they known sooner. Several aides said they suspected there might be a positive case in the West Wing when co-workers started wearing masks, but by the time they learned about Hicks that evening, testing facilities were closed.
But even after Trump learned of her diagnosis, he continued with a full day of activities, including his plan to attend, maskless, a fundraiser at his club in Bedminster, N.J., that afternoon. Only after he returned to the White House and held three tele-rallies that evening did he take a rapid test for the coronavirus and tested positive. He then took the more reliable PCR test for which it takes longer to obtain results.