SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President of the United States has tested positive for a virus he's openly doubted and minimized at times. Melania Trump has also tested positive, as have a number of close aides and U.S. senators. Today the president is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and is expected to stay there for at least several days. Within the last hour, we got an update on his medical condition from Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician. He said the president is doing very well.
NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: And what else did we learn about the state of the president's health?
ELVING: As you say, we had a briefing just before midday from Dr. Conley, the president's personal physician. He said the president was doing very well, was in good spirits, joking that he felt like he could walk right out of here. Dr. Conley would not give specifics about what, if any, tests may have shown at Walter Reed or getting into the timing of the president's therapies, when he started them. He just said that as the president's doctor, he was, quote, "extremely happy with the progress being made," unquote.
But, Scott, not long after Conley spoke and cut the questioning short, another person approached the White House pool reporters gathered there before they were taken back to the White House, said they were to be identified only as a person familiar with the president's health, but a person recognizable to the pool reporters. And this individual said the president's last 24 hours had been more worrisome than previously reported and that the next 48 would be crucial. And we are not yet, quote, "not yet on a clear path to a full recovery," so a very different message from what had been said on camera just moments before.
SIMON: And there seems to be a question about when the president first tested positive, right?
ELVING: That's right. We were told of that test for the very first time at 1:00 a.m. on Friday morning, so late, late Thursday night. But Dr. Conley said today that the first positive test, or the beginning of the president's diagnosis, as he put it, had been 72 hours ago. That would mean midday Wednesday. And that would mean the president not only went to a fundraiser on Thursday night in New Jersey knowing he was positive, as had been indicated, but also went to a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday night knowing he was positive.
SIMON: Of course, Ron, nobody wants or wishes coronavirus on anyone. President Trump notably certainly didn't want to begin the last month before the election as a patient in Walter Reed, brought down with the disease that he's often diminished.
ELVING: Well, clearly not. He has been yearning to campaign, as he has in the past. He wanted the big events, such as he's had in the past, those wellsprings of energy for the president's style of politics. And while they cut back on that for months after March and April in deference to the virus, they did try to jumpstart it again in the summer with an abortive event, first of all, in Tulsa, Okla., where they didn't fill all the seats and there were a number of people who apparently got the virus. After that, they did hold off for a while and begin again last month with these airplane hangar rallies, where supporters jam into a sort of semi-indoor space with very few people wearing masks or observing social distancing.
SIMON: And let me check off some of the names of people around the president who've now been diagnosed - Hope Hicks, of course, his campaign manager Bill Stepien, Kellyanne Conway, three journalists who work at the White House, two Republican Senators - Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, and just within the last half hour or so, Governor Christie, who helped with the debate prep. So given the incubation period, there's still a lot of testing, isn't there?
ELVING: Oh, that is essential at this point, even beyond the usual battery of testing they've been doing. Now, Vice President Pence is still testing negative, and he is on board to debate with Democratic nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday night. And also, the Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has tested negative, as have a number of the other people who attended that ceremony last Saturday.
SIMON: Well, and Joe Biden, of course, was in that big room in Cleveland. And so far, the Bidens have tested negative, right?
ELVING: That's right. So far they have, and Biden appeared in public yesterday and did travel for an event that was later canceled. But he was wearing a mask throughout the day.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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