WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the year's first presidential debate this week, says he thinks President Donald Trump may have already been infected with COVID-19 at the event.
Wallace said on Friday that, according to what he's been told by his doctor about the coronavirus, he believes Trump may have had the virus while debating Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday.
Trump tweeted early Friday that he and first lady Melania tested positive for the coronavirus. He was taken to Walter Reed military hospital just outside Washington in Maryland Friday afternoon, where White House officials said he'll work for several days as a precautionary measure from the presidential suite, equipped to allow him to keep up official duties.
Wallace says his doctor told him to wait until next week to get tested because the virus would need more time to show a positive result if he does have it. Wallace, the president and the former vice president were not wearing masks while sharing the debate stage Tuesday night in Cleveland. Biden's campaign announced Friday that he has tested negative.
Wallace said his doctor told him he shouldn't get tested Friday because it takes five days for the coronavirus to "load up enough" and could produce a false negative. He said it's significant because if Trump tested positive Thursday, then he thinks he had it at debate.
"If the president had a test yesterday, and it tested positive, then I think he had the coronavirus during the debate," he said. "I'm not a doctor, I'm simply telling it in terms of what I was told by my doctor-- it wouldn't load up enough to have a definitive positive test for about four or five days, which is why I'm not getting tested until next Monday."
KUSA-TV health expert Dr. Payal Kholi explained the timeline leading up to Trump's positive test. She said that the incubation period for COVID-19 is at least two days, so Trump likely did have the virus at the debate.
"We do know that 20 to 40% of people with this virus spread it when they're asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. We also know that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) defines the definition of close contact as less than 6 feet for greater than 15 minutes," Dr. Kholi said. "So if you think about these two definitions it's possible the president could be one of these 20 to 40% people and think about all the possible contacts he may have had between Tuesday and Thursday, it boggles your mind to think about how many potential people could have been exposed and just how massive a contact tracing effort this would be."
Wallace said that he got no closer to Trump than it looked on television Tuesday. He appeared on Fox News several times Friday for updates, saying that the lesson of the day is “wear the damn mask.”
Wallace also had harsh words for Scott Atlas, a former Fox guest who lately has had the president's ear offering advice on coronavirus policy.
“Listen to the independent people who do not have a political axe to grind,” Wallace said. “And I frankly don't think Scott Atlas is one of those people.”
Wallace was also saying Friday that the Trump campaign didn't arrive to the debate in time to get tested beforehand, so they were on the "honor system."
He noted as well that members of Trump’s family didn’t wear masks while they were watching the debate.
“People in the hall did notice that while they were all wearing masks, including my wife and four children, that the first family did not wear masks during the debate. ... It is worth noting that different people treated the safety rules inside the hall differently,” Wallace described.
He said on “Fox & Friends” Friday that Biden's wife, Jill, and members of her group all wore masks throughout the debate.
He said, “On the Trump side of the hall, Mrs. Trump came in wearing a mask, but took it off once she said sat down.”
Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis happened just hours after the White House announced senior aide Hope Hicks came down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. Trump led a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday after knowing he had been exposed to Hicks.
Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 205,000 people nationwide, and infected over 7 million in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. A spokesman says Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus on Friday.
In the best of cases, if the president develops few symptoms, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble, it will likely force him off the campaign trail and puts his participation in the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, into doubt.
Biden's running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, also tested negative on Friday, their campaign said.
The Associated Press contributed.