It is unclear whether Trump caught the coronavirus directly from Hicks, who had traveled with him Tuesday for his debate against Biden in Cleveland.
Hicks showed symptoms and received her test result early Thursday, but few people in the White House knew about her diagnosis until later in the afternoon, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Hicks was seen traveling Tuesday on Air Force One without a mask, and she accompanied the president Wednesday to his rally in Minnesota.
Only a small group of White House officials were aware of Hicks’ positive test Thursday morning, but news spread to more aides inside the West Wing later in the day.
Still, business at the White House continued as usual. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a briefing in the late morning. And in the afternoon, the president flew to his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for a fundraising round table and reception with high-dollar donors.
Trump traveled with a smaller group of aides for the short trip, including White House Presidential Personnel Office director John McEntee and deputy press secretary Judd Deere.
Meadows told reporters Friday that several “core staff” at the White House had already received negative Covid-19 test results, including Kushner and deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino.
“At the same time,” Meadows said, “I fully expect that as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will certainly have a positive test result. And we’ve got the mitigation plan in place to make sure that the government not only continues to move forward, but the work of the American people continues to move forward.”
Pressed on when he found out about Hicks testing positive — and whether he concealed the news of her diagnosis until after Trump’s fundraiser — Meadows said he was “not going to get into the tick-tock” of events.
“I can tell you, in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as Marine One was taking off yesterday,” Meadows said. “We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and in close contact.”
Meadows said the news of Hicks testing positive began trickling out because “we had already started the contact tracing just prior to” Trump’s fundraiser.
As for Trump’s positive test, “last night — even in the early hours of this morning — the minute we got a confirmatory test on the president, we felt like it was important to get the news out there at that time,” Meadows said.
The White House canceled the president’s travel plans minutes after Trump’s tweet. He had been scheduled to travel to Florida for a rally Friday night.
Asked when Trump learned of Hicks testing positive, McEnany also deflected.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” she told Fox News in an interview. “I’m not going to get into an exact timeline. But it’s safe to say the president took precautions.”
Discussing the possibility of a national address by the president, McEnany said she would not “confirm exactly what you’ll see from” Trump, but said the White House was “exploring a number of different ways” for the president to communicate with Americans.
McEnany also declined to elaborate on whether Trump would participate in the next presidential debate on Oct. 15, which falls within his recommended quarantine window.
“We haven’t gotten that far just yet,” she said. “This morning and this afternoon, we’re focused on the president.”
McEnany said the president had spoken on Friday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), key players in the ongoing Supreme Court confirmation fight. Trump also talked to Meadows about emergency declarations and stimulus legislation, she said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News in an interview on Friday that Trump was “doing just fine” and only had a “very moderate case” of the coronavirus.
“The president was kind of barking out orders for all of us, giving us tasks this morning to follow through [on],” Kudlow said, before acknowledging that he had not spoken to Trump since Thursday evening.
The president has been widely criticized for his dismissive remarks about the coronavirus in the outbreak’s early stages and at other points throughout the year.
In February, he told The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in February that he was “playing … down” the disease even though it was possibly five times “more deadly” than the flu. Publicly, however, Trump compared Covid-19 to the flu and assured the public that, “like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Trump has faced similar rebukes for his cavalier attitude toward coronavirus precautions. His campaign rallies often feature large crowds of supporters tightly packed together and not wearing face coverings.
He has also resumed indoor campaign events, even though public health officials advise against crowding in enclosed spaces. During his Republican National Convention acceptance speech in August, roughly 1,500 attendees gathered on the White House lawn, many without masks.
Trump has vacillated on his stated support for basic coronavirus safety guidelines, such as mask-wearing when in public and around other people, and has railed against mask mandates issued by state and local officials. At the debate this week, Trump even mocked Biden for wearing masks so often.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Multiple members of the president’s entourage declined to wear masks during the debate, despite requests from the staff of the Cleveland Clinic, which was hosting the event.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was at the White House last weekend to advise the president in debate preparations, said on Friday in an interview on ABC News that he and others working with Trump did not wear masks.
Trump’s infection is the latest piece of evidence that the coronavirus does not spare the powerful. Numerous world leaders have contracted the disease.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain spent three nights in intensive care in April after he contracted Covid-19 and experienced trouble breathing. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil also tested positive in July.
The coronavirus has infiltrated other elite political circles. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife tested positive after attending a large event in London.
Elsewhere, the Australian home affairs minister and Iran’s deputy health minister were just two of numerous international government officials who have been infected since the pandemic’s outbreak.
Still, Trump’s diagnosis will raise serious questions about whether the White House’s coronavirus protocols were adequate — and whether the West Wing took the threat of the virus seriously enough.
Hicks is one of Trump’s highest-ranking aides to have tested positive for the virus. National security adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive in July, as did a number of Secret Service agents.
Katie Miller, a spokesperson for Pence, tested positive in May, and a Brazilian dinner companion of the president tested positive in March.
After the earlier diagnoses of Miller and a military valet, the White House increased the frequency of its testing of the president, the vice president and their top aides.
The White House press office said staffers also regularly deep-cleaned workspaces and conducted regular temperature checks of anyone around the president.
Daniel Lippman, Meridith McGraw, Nancy Cook and David Lim contributed to this report.