Trump's diagnosis rocks final stage of presidential campaign

AP , Friday 2 Oct 2020

Trump hits by COVID
The front page of the Evening Standard displays the news of US President Donald Trump after he tested positive to Covid-19, in London, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.(AP)

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.

No one knows exactly what comes next.

At the least, the development settles the focus of the campaign right where Democratic nominee Joe 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.

``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.''

Trump tweeted Friday that he'd begin quarantining and recovery. He's cancelled his weekend itinerary in Wisconsin, one of the three Great Lakes states that he won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 on his way to the presidency.

Americans have already begun voting in several states, meanwhile, and tens of millions will receive absentee mail-in ballots or be eligible for in-person early voting in the coming weeks.

Biden's campaign has not publicly confirmed the timing or results of the former vice president's latest COVID-19 test. Biden was scheduled to travel to Michigan on Friday. Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, was slated for a trip to Las Vegas. It was unclear whether those plans might shift given the president's diagnosis.

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. Now Trump has 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, he said Biden 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.

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