President Donald Trump said Friday he would “likely” receive a coronavirus test “fairly soon” even as he minimized the prospects of having contracted the virus from a Brazilian press aide who later tested positive.
“We’re working on a schedule,” he said during a Friday afternoon event in the White House Rose Garden, adding that he has no symptoms and barely spent time with the official who now has the virus.
Earlier Friday, White House officials sprang into action soon after early rumors began to surface that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may have tested positive for coronavirus. The Brazilian President had a meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday.
The early reports were wrong and the Brazilian leader later announced he tested negative. But the episode underscored the tenuous position Trump now finds himself: exposed to at least one person who has tested positive, in regular contact with others who have self-quarantined and under pressure to test himself.
The White House said a day earlier that neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence would be tested themselves, despite coming into contact with two aides to Bolsonaro who did test positive. The Brazilian Embassy in Washington said on Friday that Brazilian Chargé d’Affaires Nestor Forster tested positive for coronavirus. Forster sat at the same table as Trump during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. Another member of the delegation that came on the US trip, Brazilian Sen. Nelsinho Trad, said on Friday he has tested positive for the coronavirus as well.
But before Trump spoke, the calculus in the White House was changing, one official said. Aides were weighing Friday whether Trump should be tested.
The White House was constantly evaluating whether to test the President and take measures to prevent the virus’ spread further among Trump’s close confidants, according to one senior official, who said aides are keenly aware of the optics of testing the commander-in-chief.
Trump was being advised by people around him to take the test before he signaled at the news conference that he would likely be tested for the virus, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Trump was resistant to the idea but was ultimately convinced he should do it, the source said. It’s still unknown when the test will occur or if it has already happened.
The White House did not respond on the record to a question about whether their Thursday statement that the President had not been tested still stood.
On Friday, the White House did say the President’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump was working from home after coming into contact with an Australian official who later tested positive for the virus.
The White House said on Thursday that neither Trump nor Pence had displayed any symptoms, though asymptomatic people can still spread the virus and some studies have shown symptoms can begin displaying only after five days.
Some inside the White House have privately wondered why Trump isn’t being tested, according to officials, who said those people believe it would be a prudent step as Trump continues to meet with people, including a meeting scheduled for Friday with laboratory industry officials.
During his Rose Garden event, Trump shook hands with a number of the retail executives who he invited to speak from the podium until the final CEO – Bruce Greenstein of LHC Group – offered an elbow bump instead.
“I like that. That’s good,” Trump said.
Medical professionals and others on Friday questioned why Trump had not already been tested.
“It is really inconceivable that they haven’t been tested. I can tell you that the White House Medical Unit has a very proactive response to biohazard threats after 9/11,” said a source familiar with medical procedures at the White House.
The medical team would urge the President, vice president and their families and senior White House staff to be tested, according to this source.
And a second doctor who advises and has advised the White House doctors for years tells CNN: “Yes, they should absolutely get tested especially given their numerous and repeated exposures.”
This person added that they would advise the White House Medical Unit to do the test.
Some of Trump’s closest congressional allies – including Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Rick Scott, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Doug Collins and Rep. Mark Meadows, his new chief of staff – have all taken precautionary self-quarantine measures after coming into contact with people who tested positive for the virus.
One White House official noted Trump is always technically “working from home” when he’s at the White House and doesn’t have any public plans to leave in the next few days.
Pence, meanwhile, is not going to be tested unless something changes in the coming days, according to a person familiar with the matter. He did not attend the dinner with Bolsonaro or interact closely with the Brazilian aide, the president’s press secretary, so they have been advised again by his doctor that he doesn’t need it.
Here’s a look at how close the coronavirus has come to Trump:
- Fabio Wajngarten, the press secretary for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday. Trump was in close physical proximity with Wajngarten Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago, sources told CNN. Bolsonaro tested negative for the virus, according to his social media.
- Nestor Forster, Brazil’s chargé d’affaires in Washington, tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, according to the Brazilian Embassy. He was seated at the same table as Trump last weekend during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, a source familiar with the incident told CNN. The source could not say if there was any direct interaction between Forster and Trump.
- Australia’s home affairs minister Peter Dutton met with Ivanka Trump, just days before he tested positive for coronavirus, in a meeting Attorney General William Barr, Kellyanne Conway and another senior aide also attended. The White House has not responded to requests for comment on whether they will be tested. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were also at Mar-a-Lago with the Brazilian delegation over the weekend.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz is self-quarantining after attending CPAC, though has tweeted his test results are negative. Gaetz flew aboard Air Force One and rode with Trump in the presidential limousine shortly before going into quarantine. Other lawmakers who interacted with Trump also quarantined after CPAC including Rep. Doug Collins and Rep. Mark Meadows, Trump’s incoming chief of staff. Meadows tested negative for coronavirus.
- Sen. Marco Rubio said he is getting a second opinion about whether he should self-quarantine after he shook Bolsonaro’s hand in recent days. The Capitol physician told him that he has no reason to self-quarantine and has no symptoms - but said he would get a second opinion. Trump was on the Hill for a GOP luncheon earlier this week.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham is self-quarantining after being at Mar-a-Lago when the Brazilian delegation was there. Trump was on the Hill for a GOP luncheon earlier this week.
- Sen. Rick Scott is self-quarantining after interacting with Wajngarten. Trump was on the Hill for a GOP luncheon earlier this week.
- Sen. Ron Johnson was pictured in an Instagram post with Spanish politician Santiago Abascal. Abascal recently tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz is also self-quarantining, as are some other lawmakers who came into contact with a delegate at CPAC who tested positive.
- Abascal attended Trump’s speech at CPAC on February 29, according to another Instagram post. He does not have any photos with the President at the conference on his Instagram.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, Jamie Gangel, Alison Main, Sam Fossum, Jennifer Hansler, Jennifer Hauser and Taylor Barnes contributed to this report.