President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump experiencing "mild symptoms," while Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tests negative for coronavirus.

President Trump is 74 years old, putting him at a higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 200,000 people nationwide.
President Trump is 74 years old, putting him at a higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 200,000 people nationwide. (AP)

Donald Trump's chief of staff has said that he was optimistic about a rapid recovery for the president as he confirmed that Trump has "mild symptoms" after testing positive for Covid-19.

"The president and the first lady ... remain in good spirits," Mark Meadows told reporters on Friday.

"The president does have mild symptoms and, as we look to try to make sure that not only his health and safety and welfare is good, we continue to look at that for all of the American people."

"I'm not going to get into any particular treatment that he may or may not have. He has mild symptoms. As we look at that, the doctor will continue to provide expertise in the residence. He is in the residence right now," Meadows said.

Trump's doctor earlier said the president and his wife were "well."

"I have mild symptoms but overall feeling good. I am looking forward to a speedy recovery," Melania tweeted on Friday.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he has tested negative for Covid-19, three days after his debate with Trump.

"I'm happy to report that Jill (his wife) and I have tested negative for Covid," Biden said. "I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands."

'Quarantine process'

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative, a Pence spokesperson said. 

The White House official said Pence would work from his own residence several miles from the White House and his staff was being kept separated from Trump's staff "out of an abundance of caution."

Pence, 61, a conservative former US lawmaker and Indiana governor, would take over if Trump were to become incapacitated.

Trump is 74 years old, putting him at a higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 200,000 people nationwide.

Trump had earlier said that he and the first lady were beginning a "quarantine process" as they awaited their coronavirus test results.

Aide tests positive 

Trump's positive test came just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks came down with the virus after travelling with the president several times this week. 

Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information.

She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed on Thursday, the source said.

Trump tweeted late Thursday: "The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process."

Multiple travels 

Earlier, during a call-in interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Trump said, “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know. I just went for a test and 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, DC hotel and a political rally in Sanford, Florida.

Hicks, who serves as counsellor to Trump, also travelled with Trump to the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday. She is the closest White House official to Trump to test positive for the virus so far.

The positive test is yet another reminder that the coronavirus continues to spread, even as Trump has tried desperately to suggest it no longer poses a danger. Since it emerged earlier this year, Trump, the White House and his campaign have played down the threat and refused to abide by basic public health guidelines – including those issued by his own administration – such as wearing masks in public and practising social distancing.

Instead, Trump has continued to hold campaign rallies that draw thousands of supporters. The virus has killed more than 200,000 Americans and infected more than 7 million nationwide.

The White House did not respond earlier to multiple questions about the last time Trump was tested and whether he and other staffers who spent time with Hicks in recent days will be asked to quarantine.

Trump travelled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser despite concerns about Hicks' health.

In a statement, White House spokesperson Judd Deere said the president "takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously.”

“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 practises for limiting Covid-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the president is travelling,” Deere said.

Hicks travelled with the president multiple times this week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, and aboard Air Force One to Tuesday night's first presidential debate in Cleveland.

Hicks is one of the president's most trusted and longest-serving aides, having worked as spokesperson for his 2016 campaign.

She originally served as White House communications director, and re-joined the administration this year as an adviser ahead of the election. Her positive test was first reported by Bloomberg News on Thursday evening. She did not respond to a request for comment.

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Multiple White House staffers have tested positive for the virus, including Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, national security adviser Robert O'Brien, and one of the president's personal valets. Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is dating Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr, tested positive in South Dakota before an Independence Day fireworks show at Mount Rushmore.

Still, Trump has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. “I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May.

After earlier positive cases close to the president, the White House instituted a daily testing regimen for the president’s senior aides. 

On Friday, Meadows said all core staff tested negative for Covid-19. 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 quarantine for 14 days, White House staffers are considered essential workers.

CDC guidelines for exposed essential workers allow them to return to work if they take precautions, including taking their temperature before going into work, wearing a mask at all times and practising social distancing.

Typically, according to the CDC, a person develops symptoms five days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies