US President Donald Trump said on Thursday night he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for Covid-19 and have been quarantined after a top aide tested positive for coronavirus. The news comes as quite a shock given that will not only disrupt Trump's scheduled public appearances in the crucial final weeks of the election campaign but also now puts a question mark on the two scheduled Presidential Debates ahead of the all important November 4 election.
Trump's positive test comes just a couple of days after he had a massive showdown with Democrat nominee Joe Biden at the first Presidential Debate. The second debate is scheduled on October 15 at Miami but now speculation is rife if the debate will at all take place or even if it takes place under what circumstances will it be conducted.
Covid-19 Spoils the Show
On Thursday evening, Trump confirmed that senior aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for coronavirus in a tweet and said that he and the first lady were being retested for the virus. The President followed up his comments with a tweet later on Thursday saying that he and the first lady were waiting for test results. "In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!"
The First Couple is already in quarantine and as of now they are in good health but this also puts a big question mark on Trump's election campaign with just 33 days left for the election. Trump has not revealed any symptoms yet, and a White House statement said he and first lady Melania Trump are "both well." Although the White House is yet to issue a statement on how Trump's "quarantine process" will look like and if he will participate in the upcoming debates, speculation is rife that he might not be able to make it to the second debate unless the dates are altered.
The Second Presidential Debate is scheduled exactly 13 days from now in Miami and if all goes well, Trump's 14-day quarantine coincides with that since he went already went into isolation on Thursday. But even then the question remains if Trump will be able to make it to the debate, and, or should he himself stay away from the debate. However, the third debate is scheduled on October 22 at Nashville, Tennessee and provided the President shows no further complications, it is in all likelihood that the date remains unaltered.
Tough Times for Trump
The Commission on Presidential Debate (CPD) consults election campaigns of both the president and the presidential nominee before fixing the debate dates. Another possibility is that the CPD will reinitiate talks with both the campaigns once again for a fresh date but everything depends on Trump's health of the next few dates.
A lot of curiosity has been building around the second debate, especially after the heated exchange of words, insults and counter insults by both Trump and Biden during the first debate on Tuesday. The highly chaotic first presidential debate even compelled the CPD to announce that it will bring in new rules to conduct the event in a more systematic and smooth fashion.
Although Trump campaign has said that he doesn't support changing the rules by the CPD, he will be participating in the second debate. However, that was a few hours before he tested positive for the virus. Also, if Trump keeps in good health, there are possibilities that the second debate could be conducted virtually, with Trump taking on Biden online sitting in his suite in white House.
But if Trump becomes symptomatic, it could take him weeks to recover, which could jeopardize his entire campaign leave aside the two remaining debates.
Under the 25th Amendment, a medically incapacitated president has the option of temporarily transferring power to the vice president and can reclaim his authority whenever he deems himself fit for duty. In that case, Vice President Mike Pence is likely to take over from Trump but it's quite unlikely that he will replace him at the debate too.