The gravest of what-ifs has become a “what now?”: This morning, while many Americans were sleeping, President Donald Trump announced that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus. He disclosed his diagnosis in a tweet, sent at nearly 1 a.m. Eastern time: “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
The White House did not immediately point to contingency plans should the president become too ill to continue working, nor did it offer an explanation on how Trump was infected—edging an already-tense nation toward ever more confusion.
The president’s health is a national security issue. This is why he is surrounded by a massive security apparatus, from the Secret Service to the White House doctor; it is why people began speculating that nuclear command planes may have been dispatched shortly before the announcement of the positive test. Even during ordinary times, threats to the president’s safety can move markets and awaken armaments.
But these are not normal times, and the president’s diagnosis will intensify a wide-reaching and dangerous global crisis. As the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 206,000 Americans, Trump has spent months undermining faith in the democratic process and vacillating on proven public-health policies.