The White House transported the commander in chief to a nearby military hospital for observation less than 24 hours after the president announced he had tested positive for the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Marine One, the president’s helicopter, lifted off from the White House lawn Friday evening to fly President Donald Trump to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Trump’s doctor, in a Friday memo, said the president remained fatigued but was in good spirits.
The president was receiving antibodies, zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, according to the memo. Hours later, the White House began preparing to transport Trump to Walter Reed.
Trump walked alone to the helicopter on Friday, giving reporters a thumbs-up, while wearing a suit and a mask. As he boarded the helo, Trump saluted the Marine staff sergeant outside the aircraft.
Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which operates the helicopter, would continue its top mission of supporting presidential travel, a Marine official said in the wake of Trump’s diagnosis.
“HMX-1 remains postured to support the President and will continue to sanitize each helicopter in accordance with the COVID-19 guidelines published by the Center for Disease Control,” Capt. Joe Butterfield, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said.
The Marine Corps was testing crew members for possible exposure to COVID-19, Butterfield added. Isolation protocols will be followed if Marines were exposed to White House officials or other government personnel who have since tested positive for the virus.
“HMX-1 also follows [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for monitoring the health of its personnel and routinely tests its Marines,” Butterfield added.
Members of the Air Force One crew may also have been exposed to the virus this week. Trump and several of his aides flew on the presidential plane this week out of Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, travelling to the first presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday, a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday and New Jersey on Thursday. Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s top aides, was on the flights to and from Minnesota, and self-quarantined aboard the flight, according to CNBC News. Hicks tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning.
The 89th Airlift Wing, headquartered at Andrews, said it has established safety protocols in its day-to-day operations, incorporating CDC public health guidance protocols and frequent testing of the Air Force One flight crew members.
“In the event any Air Force One personnel are exposed, become symptomatic, or test positive, the 89th Airlift Wing would follow the guidelines established by the CDC,” the wing said in a statement Friday evening. “The 89th Airlift Wing is committed to providing the President with safe, comfortable, and reliable transportation and protecting the health of our airmen.”
Air crews aren’t the only military personnel who were possibly exposed to COVID-19. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and several members of the Joint Chiefs attended a Sunday event at the White House for Gold Star families.
All of those leaders have since tested negative for the virus, defense officials told Military.com on Friday morning.
Trump on Thursday evening told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he was surprised to learn of Hicks’ positive result, but added that “things happen,” especially with military and law enforcement officials consistently accompanying the staff.
“It’s very, very hard when you are with people from the military and from law enforcement, and they come over to you and they want to hug you and they want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them,” he said during a telephone interview. “And you get close and things happen.”
Trump’s age and other health factors leave him at higher risk for severe complications of COVID-19. He has for months downplayed the severity of the global pandemic, repeatedly holding in-person rallies that didn’t enforce mask-wearing or social distancing.
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