President Donald Trump said Saturday that he had finally taken a test for the coronavirus, after he was near multiple people who had tested positive for it.
Trump said he took the test Friday evening but does not yet have results.
“I also took the test last night,” Trump said. “I decided I should based on the press conference yesterday ― people were asking did I take the test.”
The news, announced at a press briefing on the coronavirus response, contradicted a memo from White House physician and Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley released just before midnight Friday, which said that Trump did not need to self-quarantine or be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was also near individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, said Saturday that he has not been tested but would be “happy” to do so. Pence said he would talk to the White House physician about the matter after the briefing.
Earlier Saturday, the White House also said that it will check the temperatures of anyone who comes in close contact with Trump or Pence.
“Out of an abundance of caution, temperature checks are now being performed on any individuals who are in close contact with the president and vice president,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told reporters.
Reporters found out about the new temperature check practice on Saturday after an individual from Conley’s office took their temperatures, according to a pool report.
Trump told reporters that he had his temperature checked before the briefing as well and it was “not good.”
The president has previously strayed from experts’ advice on how to avoid contracting the coronavirus. On Friday, at a press conference announcing new steps to combat the spread and impact of the virus, he shook hands with other speakers, touched a microphone others had touched, and was in close proximity to a number of people.
Trump’s actions all contrasted with the “social distancing” advised by experts in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. This means avoiding close contact and large crowds, particularly for individuals in high-risk groups, such as older adults. (The president is 73 years old.)
When asked about his behavior, Trump said it was a matter of habit, but he said perhaps the coronavirus outbreak will reduce handshaking in the future.
“Getting away from shaking hands is a good thing,” he said. “And possibly that’s something that comes out of this. Maybe people shouldn’t be shaking hands for the long-term because it does transmit flu and other things.”
Trump had previously repeatedly downplayed the need to be tested, insisting he hadn’t been in close contact with Fabio Wajngarten, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s press secretary, who tested positive for the virus after spending an evening with Trump and Pence at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, days before Wajngarten was tested.
Another individual tested positive for the virus after visiting Mar-a-Lago on Sunday for a Trump campaign fundraiser, according to the campaign, although that individual was not in contact with the president.
Conley’s Friday memo said another individual at the Brazilian delegation dinner with Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. That individual was in closer proximity with the president than Wajngarten was, according to the memo.