Trump in NJ with supporters hours before positive COVID test
Chris Christie attends a Rose Garden Event at the White House. Associated Press
President Donald Trump traveled to his club in Bedminster on Thursday to hold a campaign fundraiser when he likely had COVID-19, possibly exposing others to the deadly disease.
Trump announced early Friday morning that he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for the coronavirus. It's unclear when he contracted it, but Trump was presumably exposed through contact with his aide, Hope Hicks. She appears to have been diagnosed on Wednesday evening.
Former Gov. Chris Christie was also close to the president this week, helping Trump prepare for Tuesday's debate with former Vice President Joe Biden. Christie was also near Hicks, he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." No one was wearing masks during debate prep, Christie said.
Christie said he was last tested for the coronavirus Tuesday morning and it was negative. But he had been near Trump and Hicks after that. Neither she nor the president showed any symptoms when he was near them, Christie said.
Christie got tested Friday after the president announced he had tested positive but did not expect results back until the weekend.
"I don't have any symptoms. I feel fine," Christie said in a brief phone interview.
Hicks flew with Trump to Minnesota for a "Make America Great Again" rally. Trump then arrived in New Jersey on Thursday.
Minnesota is one of 34 states under an advisory issued by Gov. Phil Murphy recommending that travelers quarantine for 14 days.
Before announcing late Thursday that he planned to quarantine, Trump attended a fundraiser at his Bedminster golf club. Christie said he did not attend, but the Washington Post reported that Trump was in "close contact" with dozens of other people, including supporters. The newspaper said he wasn't wearing a mask.
An attendee told The New York Times that Trump seemed lethargic at his Bedminster appearance, but two other people who were there told the Trenton bureau of the USA TODAY Network Atlantic Group that the president seemed in fine form.
One of the attendees, the comedian and radio host Joe Piscopo, said he commented to another attendee Thursday night how fit the president seemed.
"We said, 'How is this guy doing it? Look at the stamina of this guy,'" said Piscopo, who publicly flirted with running for governor in 2017. "I can’t tell you how healthy he looked. I’m sure that this will come and go."
John Sette, a Republican donor and former Morris County Republican Committee chairman, estimated there were about 300 people in attendance. But he didn't see any local politicians, which "was strange."
He said Trump spoke for about 15 minutes and then took questions from the crowd for about an hour.
“I’m glad I went. It was a great event, the weather was beautiful," Sette said, adding that he wasn't near the president and didn't shake hands with anyone. "I’m assuming I’m fine."
Rich Roberts, a doctor and Republican donor from Ocean County, said Trump had "a lot of spunk in him" and he did not see any signs of illness. He was in a group of more than a dozen people who met with Trump for about an hour, prior to which they were tested for the virus by the Secret Service. Roberts said he was negative
"I’m a medical doctor, if we see things that are abnormal, our eyes and our ears go there," Roberts said. "For the entire hour he did not cough once, he did not sneeze once, he didn’t clear his throat once, he didn’t use a tissue, his eyes were not watering."
Murphy said in a statement that "the contact-tracing process is underway" and he urged everyone who attended the event in Bedminster to take full precautions, including quarantining and getting tested.
The state Department of Health is working with the Somerset County Health Department to try determining potential risk of exposure to attendees and staff of the club, said agency spokeswoman Dawn Thomas.
"As the investigation proceeds, the Department of Health will assist Somerset County in notifying health departments affected in other counties, as well as out of state health departments," Thomas said in a statement.
Piscopo said in the last several weeks he learned through testing that he has antibodies indicating he contracted the virus at some point. But the self-described germaphobe said Friday, "Now I’m going to get tested."
Murphy and his wife, Tammy, wished the Trumps the best.
"If there is one thing we have learned in New Jersey over these months, it's that we pull together and support everyone fighting this virus," Murphy said.
At an event in Ocean County on Friday, Murphy said he had been in touch with the White House and “the president has heard that we are praying for him.”
The Republican State Committee also wished Trump a speedy recovery
Dustin Racioppi is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to his work covering New Jersey’s governor and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.