What President Trump’s positive COVID test means: Yahoo News Explains

Early Friday morning, President Trump announced that both he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. Many of the implications of this development are yet to be known, but speculation on the impact this may have on the president as he seeks a second term is spreading rapidly. Yahoo News Medical Contributor Kavita Patel explains what we currently know about the risks to the president, the people he has been in contact with and why inaccurate testing may be to blame.

Video Transcript


KAVITA PATEL: Early Friday morning, about 1:00 AM Eastern time, both the president, Donald Trump, as well as the first lady, Melania Trump, confirmed that they tested positive for COVID. We now have reporting from "The New York Times" that states that he has, quote, mild symptoms. So that we know about the president.

We also know that one of his close advisors, Hope Hicks, definitely tested positive and was confirmed to have symptoms, as well. And that occurred Wednesday night. So doing the kind of math, I think a lot of people have made some erroneous assumptions that Hope Hicks was kind of the index case, as we call it, in contact tracing. But given that closeness of potentially their symptoms, one should not make that assumption.

And to be technical, treating the president just like anybody else, you really want to go back 72 hours and identify all the individuals with whom he came into close contact. Certainly you and any other viewer would be right to kind of wonder, OK, does that mean, you know, all the people at a rally are potentially at risk? Yes. All the people inside the White House? Yes.

And a natural question is to ask whether exposure at the debate could put Vice President Joe Biden at risk. It's not worth speculating. We've already heard that the vice president gets tested frequently and has been tested negative, reportedly.

But a couple of reasons that he is still at risk, even though they were more than six feet apart-- he was inside a closed space and certainly, at times, both Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump and even the moderator, Chris Wallace, who was also there, were using raised voices, which we know have been contributors to some of these super spreader events.

The president has risk factors-- 74 years old. We know from his past physicals, he definitely is on the overweight category. So according to some of the studies done in other countries, and even our own studies, he has anywhere from a 9% to 12% mortality risk, which is very real.

And I think this all exposes the flaws in testing. No test is perfect. The White House uses the Abbott ID NOW, which is a rapid PCR test-- PCR being the gold standard. But the Abbott test is plagued with a high false negative rate. And it's been interesting, because many of us have been questioning publicly, why is the White House using a rapid PCR that has a high false negative rate-- has been somewhat controversial-- when there is an available other manufacturer that has that similar test but with a much better results profile?

And I think it just speaks again to the fact that most of the American public doesn't understand that not all tests are created equal. And certainly, a rapid test, while it might be very attractive, is not necessarily best used for what we call public surveillance. It's best used when you have clinical suspicion, which is why these rapid tests are really only appropriate in what we call clinical points of care.

And I think those are-- those are-- this is all an important reminder of some of the things that we've been talking about for months, but it just doesn't hit home until you have such a dramatic case like we do today with the president and first lady.