Trump to begin ‘quarantine process’ after aide gets COVID-19

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump are beginning a “quarantine process” as they await coronavirus test results after a top aide he spent substantial time with this week tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump’s comments came after he confirmed that Hope Hicks, one his closest aides, had tested positive for the virus Thursday. Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota 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 Thursday, the person 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.”

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, D.C., hotel and a political rally in Sanford, Florida.

Hicks, who serves as counselor to Trump, also traveled 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 practicing 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.

22 PHOTOSEverything you need to know about Hope HicksSee GalleryEverything you need to know about Hope Hicks

Hicks and her sister, Mary Grace, were successful teen models. Hicks posed for Ralph Lauren and appeared on the cover of "It Girl," a spin-off of the best-selling "Gossip Girl" book and TV series.

Hicks and her sister, Mary Grace, were successful teen models. Hicks posed for Ralph Lauren and appeared on the cover of "It Girl," a spin-off of the best-selling "Gossip Girl" book and TV series.

Hicks met patriarch Trump and quickly "earned his trust," Ivanka Trump told The New York Times for a June 2016 profile on the spokeswoman.

In January 2015, Trump called Hicks into his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower and told her she was joining his presidential campaign. "I think it’s ‘the year of the outsider.’ It helps to have people with outsider perspective," Hicks said Trump told her.

Hicks didn’t have any political experience, but her public-relations roots run deep. Both grandfathers worked in PR, and her father, Paul, was the NFL’s executive vice president for communications and public relations. He was also a town selectman from 1987 to 1991. Greenwich proclaimed April 23, 2016, as Paul B. Hicks III Day.

Hicks started working on what would become Trump’s campaign five months before Trump announced his presidency, after he famously rode a golden escalator down to the lobby of his tower on June 16, 2015.

That makes Hicks the campaign staffer who has persisted in Trump’s inner circle the longest. She outlasted his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and several senior advisers.

People close to her describe Hicks as a friendly, loyal fighter. Trump has called her a "natural" and "outstanding."

While reporters who have worked with Hicks say she’s polite, they have expressed frustration that she was often unreachable on the campaign trail, not responding to requests for comment, or denying access to the candidate.

She said her mom, Caye, told her to write a book about her experience with Trump, like "Primary Colors," the fictional novel depicting President Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. "You don’t even know," she said she told her mother.

During the campaign, Hicks spent most of her days fielding reporters’ requests and questions — even reportedly taking dictation from Trump to post his tweets.

During the campaign, Hicks stayed in a free apartment in a Trump building, though she’d often go home to her parents’ house in Connecticut when she could.

These days she’s in DC. Trump named her his assistant to the president and director of strategic communications in December.

She still flies below the radar, directing the spotlight back on Trump. The then president-elect called her up to the microphone to speak at a "Thank You" rally in December.

It’s been said she can act as a sort of Trump whisperer, understanding his many moods and professionally executing what needs to be done. She still only calls him "Sir" or "Mr. Trump."

"If the acting thing doesn’t work out, I could really see myself in politics," Hicks told Greenwich Magazine when she was 13. "Who knows."

In June, the White House released salary info for 377 top staffers. Hicks gets paid the maximum amount that any of Trump’s aides receive: $179,700.

Hicks is making as much as Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, former press secretary Sean Spicer, senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, policy adviser Stephen Miller, and communications official Omarosa Manigault.

Some family members and friends have expressed concern that Hicks is so closely tied to a president whose policies and statements are unpopular with a significant number of Americans, but are confident that she’ll come through unscathed.

"There is just no way that a camera or an episode or a documentary could capture what has gone on. There is nothing like it," Hicks told Marie Claire in June 2016. "It is the most unbelievable, awe-inspiring thing."

In August, Trump asked Hicks to be the new interim White House director of communications, a job that Michael Dubke, Sean Spicer, and Anthony Scaramucci held and left in Trump’s first six months in office. The White House will announce who will serve in the job permanently "at the appropriate time."

The 28-year-old Hicks is the youngest communications director in history.

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The White House had not responded 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 traveled to New Jersey Thursday for a fundraiser despite concerns about Hicks’ health.

Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from the virus. He said he expected to have the results back either Thursday night or Friday morning.

In a statement, White House spokesman 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 practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is traveling,” Deere said.

Hicks traveled with the president multiple times this week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota 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 as 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.

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. Anyone who will be in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.

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’s guidelines for exposed essential workers allows them to return to work if they take precautions, including taking their temperature before going into work, wearing a mask at all times and practicing 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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