WASHINGTON — A top campaign aide to President Donald Trump defended Trump's decision to travel to a fundraiser last week after having learned that another top aide had tested positive for Covid-19 — just hours before Trump learned that he had contracted the coronavirus.
Jason Miller, the Trump campaign's senior adviser, said on NBC News' "Meet the Press" that he still traveled to the fundraiser at his New Jersey golf club because he and those around him are regularly tested for the coronavirus and that at that point, Trump hadn't tested positive.
But by the time Trump attended the fundraiser, one close aide had tested positive: Hope Hicks, who traveled with Trump on Air Force One Wednesday evening. It was during that trip that Hicks quarantined herself on the plane after she felt unwell.
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"Anybody around the president is tested, not only tested for Covid with the rapid test, but they also have their temperature checked. At any of these events, folks are kept back from him by 6 feet. That's the update from the fundraiser they had. So people aren't getting that close to the president," Miller said.
"But again, the president did not have a positive test yet," Miller said. "As soon as he did have a positive test, they of course went to a different level of protocol."
Miller repeatedly demurred when asked why the White House didn't follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say "people who have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19" should quarantine for two weeks from their last contact with an infected person.
That CDC guidance also says people should still quarantine after a close contact "even if you test negative for Covid-19 or feel healthy," because "symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure."
"I'll let both White House operations and the White House medical unit speak to the exact particulars," Miller said when pressed again about that CDC guidance, pointing to the protocol that requires the president and those coming into contact with him to be tested.
"I'm never within 6 feet of the president even when I'm around him, so they take a lot of seriousness into these precautionary measures," he said.
But he pointed out that even the protocols aimed at protecting the president couldn't spare him from contracting the virus.
"There's a lot about this virus we don't know. President Trump is, arguably, the single most protected person on the entire planet, and yet he got Covid," Miller said.
As the state of New Jersey works with the White House and the Trump campaign apparatus to trace those who came into contact with Trump and his staff during the fundraiser, a person with knowledge of the effort said there's frustration at the state level over how long it has taken those in Trump's orbit to turn over information.
Trump has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since Friday in what aides have described as a precautionary move.
Trump's doctors appeared optimistic in statements to reporters Saturday, and Trump tweeted a video saying: "I came here, wasn't feeling so well. I feel much better now." Since doctors began caring for him, he has received the experimental antiviral therapy remdesivir, as well as an antibody therapy.
But those close to the White House have, at times, described a more serious situation. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News on Saturday night that Trump had a fever Friday and that his "blood-oxygen level dropped rapidly."
"He's a fighter, as we all know," Meadows said. "He's not out of the woods. The next 48 hours or so, with the history of this virus, we know can be tough. But he made unbelievable improvements from yesterday morning, when I know a number of us ... were very concerned."
Miller said that he spoke with Trump for 30 minutes Saturday afternoon and that he is in "very good spirits" and wanted to remind Americans to "be careful" and to take steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks and washing their hands.
"The president said a couple of things: No. 1, he is going to defeat this virus, that as a nation we are going to defeat this virus, and our campaign is going to defeat this virus. Once he gets out of the hospital, he's ready to get back to the campaign trail," Miller said.