What Happens If Trump Gets Coronavirus?

President Trump was at the same event as a known coronavirus carrier and is 'one-step removed' from the individual. What happens if the president of the United States gets Covid-19?
Posted in: Headlines
March 10, 2020 1:54 PM UTC
  • President Trump is ‘one-step removed’ from a known coronavirus carrier but hasn’t been tested yet.
  • An inner-circle of Washington DC politicians who have shaken Trump’s hand are self-isolating.
  • What happens if the president of the United States tests positive for Covid-19?

The president of the United States was at the same event as a known coronavirus carrier last week. Although Donald Trump didn’t meet the individual directly, many of his Washington DC inner circle did.

Some of those politicians, which include Trump’s incoming chief of staff, have since shaken the president’s hand and traveled with him.

Those politicians are now self-quarantined.

In other words, the president of the United States is ‘one-step removed’ from a known Covid-19 carrier.

With the very real possibility that the novel coronavirus is circulating in Washington DC, it’s reasonable to ask the question: what happens if the president of the United States gets it?

The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus interaction

February 29th – Conservative Political Action Conference

– A coronavirus carrier unknowingly attends the CPAC conference near Washington DC.

– Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also attend the conference but don’t have direct contact with the individual.

– A number of Congressmen do come into contact with the Covid-19 carrier.

– They include Ted Cruz, Doug Collins, Matt Gaetz, and incoming White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

President Donald Trump greets the crowd after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020 on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. | Source: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

March 6th – Georgia Event

– President Trump visits Georgia.

– Shakes hands with Doug Collins who came into contact with Covid-19 carrier at CPAC.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Congressman Doug Collins after Collins was pictured with known Covid-19 carrier. Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

March 7th – Coronavirus carrier confirmed

– The CPAC attendee with Covid-19 is confirmed and reported by mainstream media.

March 9th – Congressman flies with Trump

– Rep. Matt Gaetz (direct contact with Covid-19 carrier) travels with Trump in the presidential limo and on Air Force One.

March 9th – Politicians begin self-isolating

– Ted Cruz announces he is in self-quarantine.

– Incoming White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and his aides self-isolates. He later tests negative for the virus.

– Rep. Doug Collins self-isolates three days after shaking hands with Trump.

Trump and Pence have not been tested for Covid-19

At a press conference last night, the president was asked whether he had been tested. He ignored the question. Vice President Mike Pence did give a response.

I have not been tested for the coronavirus.

A White House spokesperson said a coronavirus test was unnecessary at this point.

[Trump] has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms… President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him.

Dr. Celine Gounder confirmed that Trump doesn’t meet the criteria yet.

To be fair, the norm would be you would test the direct contact, so the person who actually shook hands with the person with coronavirus.

She added that Trump should probably be tested if he started showing symptoms.

Trump is “melting down over this”

The president is a known germaphobe. According to a Vanity Fair article, Trump is terrified about contracting the virus. Sources say he’s even worried that journalists will try to infect him with Covid-19 while traveling on Air Force One.

Citing a Republican source, Vanity Fair reported:

Donald is a famous germaphobe. He hates it if someone is eating nachos and dips a chip back in after taking a bite. He calls them ‘double dippers’.

If the outbreak in China, Italy, and South Korea are early indications, we may see rapid spread in the U.S. too. Having said this, Trump has been seen shaking hands over the weekend and has downplayed concerns publicly.

What happens if the president gets coronavirus?

If Trump were to develop symptoms or come into direct contact with a carrier, he’d be tested. If confirmed positive, he would be immediately quarantined and treated.

But what about presidential duties?

If the symptoms were mild, the president would likely carry on administrative tasks, phone calls, and remote meetings. If the illness was more severe, Trump would have to consider the 25th Amendment.

If invoked, Mike Pence would become acting president.

The 25th Amendment explained

The 25th Amendment allows for the transition of power to the vice president if the sitting president is unable to carry out their duties.

This has happened before. Ronald Reagan handed power to George Bush for eight hours in 1985 while he underwent colon cancer surgery.

George W. Bush briefly handed power to Dick Cheney in 2002 and 2007, both while he underwent a colonoscopy.

What if Trump doesn’t sign the agreement?

There is another variable at play here. Trump may not agree to hand power over to Pence, even if he is infected.

He wouldn’t be the first to cling to power through devastating illnesses. Woodrow Wilson famously had a stroke and kept it from the American people. Kennedy was also incredibly ill through his tenure (the extend of which wasn’t revealed until long after he died).

But there is another clause in the 25th Amendment. A 1988 Miller Institute report explains the provision as such:

This provision involves a sick president who either refuses or is unable to confront his disability.

The vice president and eight members of cabinet can force the president out if they believe he is unfit for the job.

Ultimately, it depends how severe the president’s symptoms were and whether he could still function in the world’s highest office.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor, or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us and we will look at it as soon as possible.

Last modified: March 10, 2020 1:59 PM UTC

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Ben Brown @_ben_brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at benjamin-brown.uk or on Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @ benjamin-brown.uk.