President Donald Trump has tested negative for the novel coronavirus, his physician said Saturday, following concerns over his exposure to a disease that has paralyzed the globe.
“This evening I received confirmation that the test is negative,” the president’s physician Sean Conley said in a memo.
“One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free,” he said.
Trump, 73, had dismissed concerns over his exposure to the disease which has killed at least 51 Americans and upended the rhythm of daily life across the country, with millions working from home and schools shuttered.
New York, the most populous US city, saw its first coronavirus death on Saturday, as store shelves were stripped bare after days of panic buying.
“I have been through Hurricane Sandy… through 9/11, I have never seen shopping like this,” said Larry Grossman, manager of a Manhattan supermarket.
Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday announced a further restriction on travel to the United States, saying a travel ban imposed on European nations over the pandemic would be extended to the United Kingdom and Ireland Tuesday.
Trump advised against non-essential travel, and said officials were considering imposing travel restrictions within the United States.
“If you don’t have to travel, I wouldn’t do it,” Trump said at a White House news conference. “We want this thing to end. We don’t want a lot of people getting infected.”
Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in what critics say was a long-delayed admission of the gravity of the crisis, freeing up some $40 billion in disaster relief funds.
Late Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill — crafted by Democrats in consultation with the Trump administration — to provide billions of dollars for free virus testing, emergency paid sick leave and family leave related to the epidemic.
Supported by Trump, it is expected to easily pass the Republican-controlled Senate next week.
News of Trump taking the test marked a further turning point, after days of resistance to the suggestion.
An end to hand-shaking
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 5,700 lives in some 137 countries.
Repeatedly attacked for sending out mixed signals on the health crisis, the president raised eyebrows on Friday when, contrary to medical advice, he was seen shaking hands as he gathered his coronavirus response team at the White House.
On Saturday, he blamed habit — “people put their hand out… you don’t think about it” — but said it would have to change.
“Maybe people shouldn’t be shaking hands for the long term,” said Trump, a self-declared germophobe, “because it does transmit flu and other things.”
Trump’s virus test came after not only contact with the Brazilian delegation, but also US lawmakers and political leaders who have gone into self-quarantine over potential infection.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was on Saturday awaiting results of a virus test after she came down with flu-like symptoms. She reportedly attended an event in Florida with Trump on Monday and flew back to Washington on Air Force One.