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CORRECTED-UPDATE 11-Trump gets COVID-19, shows symptoms after months of downplaying virus

(Changes Pence test result to negative from positive in 14th paragraph)

* Trump sidelined from in-person events weeks before election

* Working from White House while under quarantine

* Reuters global coronavirus tracker: here

By Jeff Mason, Alexandra Alper, Steve Holland and Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for the coronavirus, administration officials said on Friday, as the White House and election campaign scrambled to adjust to an extraordinary twist in his turbulent presidency.

Trump, who has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, said he and his wife Melania were going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and severely damaged the U.S. economy.

Trump, 74, is exhibiting mild symptoms but will keep working in isolation, administration officials said.

“We have a president that is not only on the job but will remain on the job and I’m optimistic that he will have a very quick and speedy recovery,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters.

It was the latest in a series of blows to the Republican president, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

An ill-tempered debate between the two candidates on Tuesday seemed to do little to boost Trump’s prospects, and he has faced questions about his honesty and business acumen after the New York Times reported he paid little or no federal income tax in many recent years.

An active Twitter user, Trump has not posted any messages since announcing his positive test early Friday morning. He will address the American people in some form soon, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said.

Stocks on Wall Street fell almost 1% on news of one of the biggest health scares involving an American president for decades.

The president’s illness upended his re-election campaign with just 31 days to go until Election Day. The campaign said it would postpone rallies and other events where he was scheduled to appear, or take them online.

Advisers worried that Trump’s campaign fortunes could ebb further.

“Trump is a high-energy president with a giant personality. Without his persona, the campaign is missing its energy,” Republican fundraiser Dan Eberhart said.

Biden, meanwhile, planned an in-person campaign visit to Michigan. Biden tested negative on Friday, his campaign said, as did vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

Trump’s illness also raised questions about the health of others atop the U.S. government.

Vice President Mike Pence, who would take over if Trump were to fall severely ill, has tested negative, a spokesman said. The former Indiana governor, 61, is working from his own residence several miles from the White House.

Pence took over Trump’s one planned event for the day, a telephone discussion with retirees.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line for the presidency, said on MSNBC that she had tested negative.

‘ANYONE CAN GET IT’

The announcement rattled some supporters of the president, though others predicted he would quickly recover. “To see he has it wakes you up a bit. Anyone can get it, even the president,” said Maranda Joseph, 43, of Warren, Ohio.

Though the virus has killed more Americans than any other nationality, Trump has repeatedly predicted that it will fade away. He frequently flouts social-distancing guidelines and at Tuesday’s debate ridiculed Biden for wearing a mask.

“I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands,” Biden said on Twitter.

Trump is at high risk because of his age and weight. He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.

The Republican National Committee would chose a replacement nominee if Trump were to become incapacitated, but it is already too late in most states to change the names on the ballot. Some 2.8 million people have already voted, according to figures compiled by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

Questions surrounded Trump’s decision to go ahead with a fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club on Thursday after White House staffer Hope Hicks tested positive. The crowd of about 100 people was kept about 30 feet from Trump, a source familiar with the event said.

Trump’s positive test also means that others at the highest levels of the U.S. government have been exposed and may have to quarantine, too. Mnuchin, Attorney General William Barr, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and top Pentagon officials were among those who tested negative, officials said.

Contract tracing is underway at the White House, and the campaign is directing staffers who were exposed to someone who tested positive for the disease to quarantine, officials said.

Other White House staffers have previously tested positive for the virus, but testing at the complex was scaled back this summer as Trump sought to project a return-to-normality message.

The virus could complicate Trump’s push to install conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court. While Barrett has tested negative, one senator who met with her this week, Republican Mike Lee, said he had tested positive.

International leaders and U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle offered sympathy. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders also said they hoped Trump’s diagnosis would prompt him to behave more cautiously going forward.

Trump’s estranged niece Mary Trump took a swipe at him for his handling of the response to the pandemic.

“I reserve my sympathy, empathy, and despair for those who are sick and for those who have died because they were misled, lied to, or ignored,” she wrote on Twitter.

Trump is the latest world leader to be tested positive for the virus, which can cause a severe respiratory infection.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was rushed into intensive care after falling gravely ill in March. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called the virus a “little flu” after being infected in July. Both men recovered.

Reporting by Jeff Mason, Alexandra Alper and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder, Jarrett Renshaw, Andy Sullivan, Trevor Hunicutt, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Andy Sullivan and John Whitesides; Editing by Scott Malone, Peter Graff and Alistair Bell

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