There is no one closer to Mr. Trump than Ms. Hicks, who returned to the White House this year after leaving her position as communications director in 2018, and on Wednesday traveled with the president on Air Force One to Minnesota. She began feeling sick around the time of the campaign rally he held there, according to one person familiar with the events, and was quarantined on the return flight to Washington, where she disembarked from the back entrance of the plane.
Her positive diagnosis came on Thursday, according to the person familiar with her case, but the White House made no announcement about the situation, and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, who had also been on the plane and exposed to Ms. Hicks, then held a briefing with reporters without mentioning it or wearing a mask.
Only after Bloomberg News reported Ms. Hicks’s condition did Mr. Trump confirm it during an appearance on Thursday night on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, where he said he was waiting for his own test results.
The positive tests will undercut Mr. Trump’s effort to change the subject of the campaign away from a pandemic that polls show most Americans believe he has mishandled and onto political terrain he considers more favorable. The president has sought to focus voter attention instead on violence in cities, his Supreme Court nomination, mail-in ballots and Mr. Biden’s relationship with liberals.
Mr. Trump is the latest world leader to become infected. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was so sick that he had to be hospitalized before later recovering. Prince Charles likewise contracted the virus, as have the leaders of Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala and Bolivia.
But the symbolism of an infected American president could rattle allies, as well as governors and business owners trying to assess when and how to reopen or keep open shops, schools, parks, beaches, restaurants, factories and other workplaces. Eager to restore a semblance of normal life before the election, Mr. Trump has dismissed health concerns to demand that schools reopen, college football resume play and businesses return to full operation.