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Trump's diagnosis rocks final stage of presidential campaign

An election year already defined by a cascade of national crises is descending further into uncharted territory, now that President Donald Trump says he's tested positive for the coronavirus.

Posted: Oct 2, 2020 11:26 AM

An election year already defined by a cascade of national crises descended further into chaos Friday with President Donald Trump declaring that he’s tested positive for the coronavirus after consistently playing down the threat.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who spent 90 minutes on stage with Trump in their Tuesday debate, is awaiting his own test results.

No one knows exactly what comes next.

At the least, the development focuses the campaign right where Biden has put his emphasis for months: on Trump's response to a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S. And for the short term, it’s grounded Trump in a quarantine, denying him the large public rallies that fuel his campaign. It's unclear if Biden may alter his travel plans as well.

The stunning development injected even deeper uncertainty into an election already plagued by the pandemic, deep economic anxiety and sweeping civil unrest. Just a month before Election Day, the country entered truly uncharted territory that has the potential to rattle global markets and political debates around the world.

“It’s a reminder that the American presidency is bigger than any one person, given the reach and depth this news has,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic consultant and top adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

She said the immediate focus should be on the Trumps' health. But she added the development proves that not even Trump, no matter his talents for dictating headlines and framing events, can control a pandemic.

Trump tweeted Friday that he’d begin quarantining and recovery. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Friday that the president is resting, with mild symptoms.

The president has cancelled at least part of his weekend itinerary in Wisconsin, which is one of the three Great Lakes states Trump won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 on his way to the presidency.

With Election Day just 32 days away, Americans have already begun voting in several states and tens of millions will receive absentee mail-in ballots or be eligible for in-person early voting in the coming weeks.

Strategists in both parties acknowledged the timing is bad for the Republican president.

“Trump's main advantages, including incumbency, have been removed. Rallies, his main vehicle for mobilizing his base, will no longer be possible. Fly-bys with Air Force One as a backdrop are gone,” said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, a frequent Trump critic.

He said that Trump's infection also “fundamentally undercuts his entire campaign strategy, which was to ignore the pandemic and make unsubstantiated claims that we've turned the corner and making an economic comeback.”

The news also raises new questions about Biden's plans.

He was scheduled to travel to Michigan on Friday, but the campaign appeared to be reassessing its plans as it awaits his test results. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, was slated for a trip to Las Vegas. The campaign said Harris has tested negative for the virus.

The Democratic nominee has been much more cautious in his travel itinerary than Trump, with fewer public events and all of them following social distancing guidelines. Only Thursday did Biden’s campaign announce that it would resume door-to-door canvassing in addition to its phone and digital outreach to voters.

Biden was expected to release the results of his latest COVID-19 test and his updated travel plans later Friday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation not authorized to disclose internal conversations. The person noted Biden's campaign learned of Trump's positive result not from the White House, but from media reports.

A top Trump adviser did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the president might adjust his strategy or tactics going forward.

But the president now faces pressure to adjust after declaring many times that the virus would “disappear.” The president has repeatedly ridiculed Biden for his approach. Throughout the spring and summer, when Biden wasn't traveling regularly, the president said his challenger was “hiding in his basement.” At the rivals’ first debate Tuesday, Trump renewed his mockery over Biden wearing a mask.

“I put a mask on when I think I need it,” Trump said. “I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Biden laughed in response. “Makes a big difference” in preventing COVID-19 spread, Biden said, adding that “no serious person” argues otherwise.

Trump and Biden did not shake hands during the debate but stood without masks about 10 feet (3 meters) apart for the 90-minute event.

Two additional debates are scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. The Commission on Presidential Debates has not yet commented on any changes in the debate schedule or health protocols.

Both men are in high-risk categories for COVID complications. Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese. Biden is 77 years old.

Should Trump emerge with no visible effects, he could declare a speedy recovery as proof that he’s been right about COVID-19 being overblown. But that still would be at odds both with established science and with what Trump himself has said privately. Recordings by journalist Bob Woodward reveal Trump in early February detailing the “deadly” consequences of coronavirus, contrary to his public dismissiveness.

“From now until we get to the election, attention is going to be back where it should be: on COVID, the president’s response and the impact — and on health care,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright, a Biden supporter. “This proves our candidate was right all along.”

Seawright argued that any declaration of victory from Trump would appeal only to voters already determined to vote for him.

Despite the gravity of the news, Finney noted that other seismic stories beyond the pandemic are playing out ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, continues meetings with senators on Capitol Hill ahead of a fast-track confirmation process that is likely to further inflame political divisions in Congress and across the electorate. Barrett could end up being a decisive vote on election disputes or another constitutional challenge to the 2010 health care law that affects insurance eligibility for millions of Americans.

And public demonstrations continue in many U.S. cities as part of a national reckoning on racism following years of police killings of Black Americans.

“The pandemic is top of mind for everyone,” Finney said, “but certainly for Black and brown Americans, so are the issues that have people in the streets peacefully protesting.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
Rochester
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