Reactions around the world range from well wishes to criticism.
As Trump is flown to a hospital, Biden remains cautious
An election year already defined by a cascade of national crises descended further into chaos Friday, with President Donald Trump declaring that he’s tested positive for the coronavirus after consistently playing downthe threat and later flown to a military hospital.
Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who spent 90 minutes on stage with Trump in their Tuesday debate, tested negative.
“This is not a matter of politics. It’s a bracing reminder to all of us,” Biden declared at a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “We have to take this virus seriously. It’s not going away automatically.”
WhileBidenvowedtocontinue his cautious approach to campaigning during a pandemic, the president’s diagnosis injected even greater uncertainty into an election already plagued by crises that have exploded under Trump’s watch: the pandemic, devastating economic fallout and sweeping civil unrest. With millions of Americans already voting, the country on Friday entered uncharted territory that threatened to rattle global markets and political debates around the world.
Much depends on the extent of Trump’s symptoms, but, at the least, the development focuses the campaign right where Biden has put his emphasis for months — and where Republicans don’t want it: on Trump’s uneven response to a pan
demic that has killed more than 208,000 people in the U.S. And for the short term, it has grounded Trump in a quarantine, denying him the large public rallies that fuel his campaign just a month before the election.
The White House reported that Trump was experiencing mild symptoms and was in quarantine. His campaign announced Friday afternoon that all of Trump’s scheduled campaign events were being moved online or temporarily postponed. But late in the afternoon, a helicopter was at the White House and took Trump to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is expected to be hospital
ized for a “few days.”
Trump’s family, a steady presence on the campaign trail, was also grounded.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel has tested positive for the virus as well. But Vice President Mike Pence, who has tested negative, will attend his campaign events as planned.
“Trump’s main advantages, including incumbency, have been removed. Rallies, his main vehicle for mobilizing his base, will nolonger be possible. Fly-bys with Air Force One as a backdrop are gone,” said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, a frequent Trump critic.
HesaidthatTrump’sinfection also “fundamentally
undercuts his entire campaign strategy, which was to ignore the pandemic and make unsubstantiated claims that we’ve turned the corner.”
Biden, meanwhile, is not expected to alter his plans significantly even as his campaign announced that it would be taking all of its negative attack ads off the air.
The Democratic nominee hasbeenmuchmorecautious in his approach to campaign events and contact with voters than Trump. Havingspent much of the spring and summer avoiding crowds, Biden has held far fewer public events since returning to the campaign trail last month — all of them with small crowds, if any, following social dis
tancing guidelines. Only on Thursday did Biden’s campaign announce that it would resume door-to-door canvassing in addition to its phone and digital outreach to voters.
Biden traveled from Delaware to Michigan on Friday afternoon for a campaign event, while Jill Biden was attending a separate event in New Hampshire. Biden’s running mate, KamalaHarris, made her previously scheduled trip to Las Vegas as well.
The campaign confirmed Biden, his wife and Harris all tested negative for the virus.
“Above all, the news is a reminder that we as a nation need to do better in dealing with the pandemic,“Biden said in Grand Rapids, calling for a nationwide mask mandate as he spoke wearing a surgicalmask.“Don’tjustdoit for yourselves — do it for the people you love.”
The president now faces tremendous pressure to adjust his rhetoric and campaign tactics after spending much of the year downplaying the severity of the virus and repeatedly declaring COVID-19 would “disappear.”
As recently as Tuesday, Trump ridiculed Biden on national television for his cautious approach.
“I put a mask on when I think I need it,” Trump said during the debate. “I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him he’s got a mask.”
Biden laughed in response. “Makes a big difference” in preventingCOVID-19spread, he said, adding that “no serious person” argues otherwise.
Two additional debates are scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. The Commission on Presidential Debates has not yet commented on any changes in the debate schedule or health protocols.
The debate commission said next week’s vice presidential debate is on as scheduled.
Should Trump emerge with no visible effects, he could declare a speedy recovery as proof that he’s been right about COVID-19 being overblown. But that still would be at odds both with established science and with what Trump himself has said privately. Recordings by journalist Bob Woodward captured Trump in early February detailing the “deadly” consequences of coronavirus, contrary to his public dismissiveness.
The campaign pitting President Trump and Joe Biden has been upended after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.