Coronavirus

Coronavirus USA: when did Donald Trump become infected with Covid-19?

It has been a week since the President revealed he and Melania Trump tested positive for the virus and a number of White House staff have now also been infected.

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Coronavirus USA: when did Donald Trump become infected with Covid-19?
THE WHITE HOUSE via REUTERS

News of Donald and Melania Trump’s positive tests were first revealed in a Twitter post from the President sent in the early hours of Friday 2 October. He had been in close contact with senior aide Hope Hicks who had previously caught Covid-19 but Trump claimed in the tweet that he had only tested positive that evening, on Thursday 1 October.

White House spokesman Judd Deere told ABC News that “the president is tested regularly” but Trump’s team have repeatedly refused to say when he last returned a negative test result.

When could the President have contracted Covid-19?

The White House's refusal to comment has sparked a huge debate over the course of Trump's illness. Even if the President and First Lady were being tested on a daily basis it does not necessarily mean that they had caught the virus in the previous 24 hours, or that they had not been infectious before then. According to Dr Otto Yang, an expert in medicine and infectious diseases at UCLA, it can take between five and seven days for a patient with coronavirus to first test positive.

Furthermore the timeline of Trump’s Covid-19 progression is still subject to much speculation with doctors unwilling to reveal exact details. When first questioned about the President’s condition on Saturday morning, Trump’s personal physician Dr Sean Conley initially said that it had been 72 hours since the diagnosis, placing the first positive test on Wednesday.

Dr Conley later claimed he had misspoken – he had meant to say that it was “day three” of the infection – but it only served to muddy the waters further.

Did Trump’s infection progress unusually?

Although the virus is still relatively new and therefore unknown, experts have been able to build a rough timeline describing the stages of infection. Since returning to the White House on Monday evening Trump has spoken extensively about experimental drug Regeneron which he described as “incredible” in his recovery.

However Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail is yet to be approved by the FDA and is designed for use in life-threatening or particularly serious cases. Use of the drug within just a few days of contracting the virus may suggest that the President suffered a very sudden downturn in physical condition.

Another explanation is that Trump contracted the coronavirus days earlier than has been publically admitted. The Los Angeles Times have reported that sources close to the President claim that he required supplemental oxygen as early as Friday morning, just hours after supposedly testing positive for the first time.

Why does the timeframe of Trump’s Covid-19 battle matter?

As Trump was only publically known to have contracted the virus on Friday morning he had previously been attending a large number of campaign functions and official events, frequently without a mask.

On 25 September he travelled from Florida to Georgia, then onto Washington and finally ended in Virginia in a busy day of campaign events. The following day he gave a speech in the White House Rose Garden to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court, followed by a large rally in Pennsylvania where many of the crowd were not wearing face coverings.

There were more days of meetings and prep sessions with his team before going on stage with Joe Biden at the first Presidential debate, where he mocked his rival for consistently wearing a mask. After another two days of meetings and public engagements he finally announced that he would be quarantining after testing positive for Covid-19.

If Trump actually became infected earlier than first thought there is the distinct possibility that he could have been a ‘super spreader’, exacerbating the spate of positive tests amongst his team. The White House is currently in the middle of a coronavirus outbreak with 34 “staffers and other contacts” having now tested positive for the virus according to a leaked government memo.

The CDCP have issued guidelines on what to do if you test positive for Covid-19, which includes a spell of self-isolation of at least 10 days after the symptoms first appear. Patients who were hospitalised are advised to stay at home for even longer. However it remains to be seen if Trump will be willing to miss any more potential campaigning opportunities.