With the U.S. presidential election just 32 days away, U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19.

The president has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, even as more than 200,000 Americans have died, but experts have warned that at age 74, he is already at a higher risk of falling seriously ill. 

A White House official said Friday morning that the president was experiencing mild symptoms but was working from the White House residence, The Associated Press reported.

Here’s what we know so far: 

Who would take over?

The Trumps have some of the best health care in the U.S. available to them, but the president is still at a higher risk of severe illness than most due to his age, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention guidelines.

The organization says people aged 65 to 74 have a five times higher risk of hospital admission with coronavirus compared with those aged 18 to 29, and a 90% higher risk of death.

If Trump becomes too ill to work, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence would then take charge. 

With a number of cases of COVID-19 reported within the White House, it is feasible that Pence could also test positive.

On Friday morning, Pence’s press secretary tweeted that the vice president and second lady had tested negative for COVID-19. 

If Pence did contract the virus and was incapacitated, the speaker of the House — Democrat Nancy Pelosi — would take over. 

What about the election?

Trump has held large, often maskless, events throughout the pandemic in the months leading up to the presidential election and has repeatedly sought to downplay the virus. 

The president has been fiercely criticized for these gatherings, which have attracted thousands of people and gone against health guidelines followed worldwide. 

But Trump is now self-isolating after testing positive for the virus. He cancelled his plans to travel to a rally in Florida on Friday but kept a midday phone call with “vulnerable seniors” about COVID-19 support on his schedule.

It is also unclear whether Trump’s positive test will prevent him from attending the second presidential debate, set to take place on Oct. 15 in Miami.

With the election itself just 32 days away, Trump’s positive diagnosis raises huge questions around how the event will play out.

World leaders react

Global markets dropped in the wake of the announcement of Trump’s positive test, with U.S. stock futures and Asian shares sinking on Friday morning. 

Pence tweeted that he and his wife, Karen, send their “love and prayers” to the Trumps.  

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has recovered from COVID-19 after falling seriously ill, tweeted: “My best wishes to president Trump and the first lady. Hope they both have a speedy recovery from coronavirus.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also sent words of support to the Trumps, months after Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for the virus. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Wishing my friend @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS a quick recovery and good health.” 

Former U.S. vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also issued a statement on Trump’s positive diagnosis.

What about the Trumps? 

The president announced his diagnosis on Twitter early Friday morning, writing: “Tonight @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin or quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” 

The first lady later also tweeted, confirming that both she and the president had tested positive, as had “too many Americans … this year.” 

She added: “We are feeling good and I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe and we will all get through this together.” 

The U.S. president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, tweeted on Friday that she was praying for her father and stepmother.

Other White House cases

The Trumps are not the first in the White House to test positive for COVID-19 — they themselves took tests after one of the president’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, was confirmed to have contracted the virus. 

While waiting for the results of his test following Hicks’ diagnosis, Trump said he had found it difficult to socially distance while meeting members of the armed forces.

“It’s very hard when you’re with soldiers, when you’re with airmen, when you’re with the marines, and with the police officers, I’m with them so much,” he told Fox News on Thursday night. “And when they come over to you, it’s very hard to say ‘stay back, stay back,’ you know, it’s a tough kind of a situation, it’s a terrible thing,” he continued.

“They come over to you and they want to hug you and they want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them and you get close and things happen,” he added. 

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Katie Miller, press secretary to the vice president, who is married to Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller, has previously recovered from COVID-19. In May, it also emerged that one of Trump’s personal valets had tested positive for COVID-19. 


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With files from The Associated Press and HuffPost Canada.