United States President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 infection will have a profound effect on how he will be able to interact with voters in the final weeks of his campaign.
With one month to go before the November 3 election, Trump on Friday announced he and his wife Melania would go into quarantine together, while Trump’s physician Sean Conley assured the public that “The President and First Lady are both well at this time”.
Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than seven million people nationwide.
The US president and his wife will quarantine in the White House and the president “will continue carrying out his duties without disruption,” Conley added.
However, if Trump quarantines for the standard two-week period, the disruption to his campaign will be significant.
On Friday, the White House cancelled Trump’s scheduled trip to North Carolina, preventing him from conducting his signature campaign rallies, which attract thousands of supporters.
The infection also throws into question whether Trump will be attending the next presidential debate on October 15, just 13 days away.
The president’s diagnosis prompted many on social media to remind the public what would happen if the virus would incapacitate Trump.
The US constitution features an amendment that spells out what happens when a president is not able to fulfil their duty.
“Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President,” according to Section 3 of the 25th Amendment.
If he were to make that call, Vice President Mike Pence would serve as acting president until Trump transmitted “a written declaration to the contrary”.
It is not clear if Pence has also been exposed to the virus.
Trump’s entourage and many other people around him do not regularly wear face masks.
On Tuesday, White House aide Hope Hicks was part of a group that travelled to Ohio with Trump aboard Air Force One for the first presidential debate.
Trump’s adult children and senior staff did not wear masks during the debate, violating host rules and exposing themselves to potential infection at a critical time.
On Thursday, Hicks tested positive, after which Trump said he and his wife would get tested and go into quarantine. When Trump announced the news of his infection, stock markets plunged by more than 400 points.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Democrat Joe Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware because of the virus.
Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said of Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”