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Politics And Science Of Coronavirus


Tonight, President Trump boarded Marine One, bound for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, following his coronavirus diagnosis. Before getting on board, he recorded a video posted to Twitter.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I'm going to Walter Reed Hospital. I think I'm doing very well, but we're going to make sure that things work out. The first lady is doing very well, so thank you very much. I appreciate it. I will never forget it. Thank you.

MOSLEY: Trump announced his positive test overnight and is said to be experiencing mild symptoms. Joining us now for more on today's news from the White House is NPR's Ayesha Rascoe.



MOSLEY: And to discuss the president's risk factors and treatments is NPR's Allison Aubrey.

Hey there.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good to be here.

MOSLEY: And, Ayesha, let's start with you. What do we know about the president's health and how much he's been able to work?

RASCOE: The president right now is staying at Walter Reed Hospital. The White House says he'll be there for a few days and that this is happening out of an abundance of caution, and it's at the recommendation of his physician and White House medical officials. You know, there was video of Trump walking from the White House to Marine One to be flown to Walter Reed, which is not unusual, but he was walking on his own, normally. The only difference was he's now - he was now in a mask. As we heard earlier, he also released that video on Twitter, you know, talking about - you know, thanking everyone for all of their support and saying he thinks he's doing pretty well.

You know, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that he does plan to work from the presidential suite there at Walter Reed. There is a pretty extensive set of offices and things for - designed for presidents at Walter Reed. But we really don't know what this all means, and we may not know for some time exactly the extent of what is happening at the hospital. You know, earlier, White House officials have been saying that Trump is having mild symptoms and that the president and first lady were planning to stay at home at the White House for the time being. But the White House hasn't really elaborated on what symptoms Trump has or when they started.

Here's chief of staff Mark Meadows talking to reporters this morning about how Trump is doing.


MARK MEADOWS: The American people can rest assured that we have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job. And I'm optimistic that he'll have a very quick and speedy recovery.

RASCOE: And McEnany earlier said today - insisted that Trump had been working even today, talking to senators on the phone. And she said that she'd even - that they'd even had to try to slow him down a little.

MOSLEY: Allison, can you tell us more about the treatment that the president is receiving today?

AUBREY: Sure. This afternoon, the president's physician, Sean Conley, said that he'd been given a single infusion of an experimental drug. It contains two antibodies, so it's referred to as an antibody cocktail. It's made by Regeneron. This drug has shown promise, but it is still under review. It has not been approved by the FDA. He received a high dose, 8 grams.

Now, how the president's medical team got the medicine wasn't disclosed. But the company, Regeneron, released preliminary results this week from a test of patients who'd been treated outside of hospitals. The study found that in COVID-19 patients who had not produced their own antibodies against the coronavirus, that the medicine both improved symptoms and lowered the amount of virus compared to a placebo. So, again, the drug has shown promise but is not approved.

MOSLEY: I see. Ayesha, last night, we learned also that White House adviser Hope Hicks also tested positive. What do you know about her situation and how widespread this could actually be within Trump's circle?

RASCOE: Hope Hicks has traveled with the president. It is hard to tell where either of them contracted the virus. We don't know, and we should be clear about that. And we don't know exactly when Hicks tested positive, though we learned of it last night. She traveled with the president several times, as recently as Tuesday and Wednesday. Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, said that core staff have been tested, and they're negative. Vice President Pence has tested negative. Trump's youngest son, Barron, is also negative.

But Trump was actively attending events and traveling up until just today. I mean, he held an event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday. And at least five people from that event have now announced that they've tested positive, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

MOSLEY: So, Ayesha, what is the White House doing to try and test people and contact trace those who've crossed paths with the president and the first lady and Hope Hicks?

RASCOE: Meadows has said that the White House has begun the contact tracing process. He said they started yesterday, before the president's trip to New Jersey, when they learned about Hicks' positive test. Here's Kayleigh McEnany talking about the decision for Trump to go to that fundraiser in New Jersey yesterday, even though Hicks had gotten this positive result.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY: It was deemed safe for the president to go. He socially distanced. It was an outdoor event, and it was deemed safe by White House operations for him to attend that event.

RASCOE: Meadows says he expects others in the White House may eventually test positive for the virus and that the White House is working on making plans to ensure that its work can move forward.

MOSLEY: Allison, with the little bit of time that I have with you, we know there's a lot of variability with coronavirus. How do we know when somebody is free to move around and interact with others following a diagnosis?

AUBREY: Well, typically, that would be 10 to 14 days after symptoms begin. And I think it's worth pointing out that just because the president's symptoms have reportedly been mild now, that might not be true going forward. You know, all the experts I speak to say he's at very high risk. Given his weight, given his age, it's likely he could develop some more serious symptoms. And CDC statistics show that a person his age is five times more likely to be hospitalized compared to an adult, say, in their 20s, so this is serious.

MOSLEY: This is serious. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey and NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, thank you both.

RASCOE: Thank you.

AUBREY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.