Hope Hicks, a close adviser to President Donald Trump who traveled with him several times this week aboard Air Force One, has tested positive for the coronavirus, a senior administration official confirmed Thursday.
Hicks, 31, served as Trump’s 2016 campaign spokeswoman from the beginning of his candidacy and then White House communications director before leaving in March 2018 for a job at Fox News. She returned to the White House in February in the role of counselor to the president.
Trump tweeted late Thursday: “The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process.”
Trump, 74, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during a live interview earlier Thursday night that he and first lady Melania Trump, 50, were tested after they learned about Hicks and were awaiting the results.
“She tested positive and I just went out with a test … so whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said. “So I just went for a test and we’ll see what happens. Who knows? … We spend a lot of time with Hope, so we’ll see what happens.”
It can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test, and it was unclear what Trump’s quarantine entailed. Minutes before his tweet, the White House distributed a schedule for Friday that showed he planned to go forward with a fundraiser at his Washington, D.C., hotel and a political rally in Sanford, Florida.
Several Minnesota Republicans met Trump at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport Wednesday ahead of his rally in Duluth and a fundraiser in suburban Minneapolis. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka had not been contacted by the White House “as far as I know,” spokeswoman Rachel Aplikowski said. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt had not been contacted, a spokesman said.
Hicks traveled with the president to Pennsylvania for a rally on Saturday, to Cleveland for the first presidential debate on Tuesday and to Minnesota for another campaign rally on Wednesday.
She was photographed without a mask at the Pennsylvania rally clapping to the Village People’s “YMCA” with other Trump aides and in Cleveland on the tarmac deplaning Air Force One.
Trump, who doesn’t frequently wear a mask, is often seen in close proximity with his entourage, who often don’t follow public health experts’ precautions.
“The President takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. “White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is traveling.”
Hicks is the most senior White House aide known to have tested positive. Vice President Pence’s spokeswoman, Katie Miller, caught the virus in May, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump campaign finance chair and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., contracted the virus in July.
Trump has faced criticism for not encouraging widespread mask wearing, a practice that top public health officials in his own administration have said would make a significant difference in reducing the spread of the contagious virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.
The White House administers daily coronavirus tests of aides, reporters and others who come into contact with the president. But public health experts warn those tests are not fool-proof and that masks and social distancing are still the best protection against the virus.
At Tuesday’s debate, Trump was pressed on his insistence on having massive campaign rallies where no one is required to wear facial coverings or socially distance.
“We’ve had no negative effect, and we’ve had, 35-40,000, people at some of these rallies,” Trump said.
“He’s been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraged them not to. He’s a fool on this,” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden shot back.
“If you could get the crowds, you would have done the same thing,” Trump said. “But you can’t. Nobody cares.”