Hope Hicks returned to the White House to pull Trump across the finish line. Then coronavirus hit.

Two days later, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a national pandemic.

Since then, the virus has claimed more than 212,000 American lives, tanked the economy and forced millions out of their jobs or school, imperiling the president’s reelection prospects. But it may never have been more palpable for Trump than the moment last week when Hicks took ill — closely foreshadowing his own sickness.

Hicks is rarely seen — her disdain for the spotlight is matched by her loyalty to the man who loves nothing more. But for the president she is ever-present. Whatever her title, her unspoken job description has been to prevent reality from intruding on him. She has managed his moods and counseled him on nearly everything, from the most substantive to the trivial. Until last week, she spent more time with him than almost anyone else outside his family.

“She is trusted because she isn’t driving her own policy agenda. She is looking out for him,” said former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who has worked closely with Hicks. “It’s so important for him to have a voice in the room that’s not trying to do anything other than be strictly helpful to him. She is a confidante, an adviser and a strategist.”

But when a reporter broke the news of Hicks’s coronavirus diagnosis last week, it exposed a contagion at the White House that has presented Trump with his biggest challenge at the defining moment of his presidency. It has placed exactly the kind of scrutiny on Hicks that she abhors and put her movements at the center of a conversation about the president’s handling of the nation’s most deadly pandemic in a century.

This story is based on interviews with 12 current and former administration officials or others close to Hicks, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak about her and her recent diagnosis.

Hicks had tested negative last Wednesday, the morning after Trump’s first debate with Joe Biden, but she started feeling unwell at a rally in Duluth, Minn., that night. She quarantined herself on Air Force One on the return trip, discreetly enough that other staffers did not know she was ill. When the plane landed, she exited from the rear entrance.

The next morning, Hicks reported for work at the White House and tested positive for the coronavirus. She returned home to begin isolating — but told only the president and a small circle of senior staff, including chief of staff Mark Meadows. Many colleagues, including one aide who had been near her during her potentially contagious period, were enraged when they only learned about it several hours later through the gossip vine or White House contact tracers; two said they would have curtailed their contact with other people and taken a test immediately had they known sooner. Several aides said they suspected there might be a positive case in the West Wing when co-workers started wearing masks, but by the time they learned

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Trump returned to the Oval Office even as the White House outbreak grew.

President Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, even as a full picture of his health remained unclear and many of his aides were in quarantine amid a West Wing outbreak that continues to grow.

White House officials said he went in for an update on the stimulus talks that he had called off Tuesday. And two people close to the White House said that advisers were exploring the possibility of resuming travel events for the president next week.

Despite the president’s insistence on returning to seeming normalcy, experts on the virus say he is entering a pivotal phase in the disease — seven to 10 days after the onset of symptoms — when some patients take a turn for the worse.

Underscoring the potential dangers, a White House memo instructed staff members to follow new safety protocols, among them some that Mr. Trump has previously dismissed. They include surgical masks and protective eye covers. Many health experts believe the West Wing outbreak is a result of White House officials ignoring precautions recommended by public health experts.

Mr. Trump told the White House medical staff that he was feeling “great” and was symptom-free, according to a statement released Wednesday by his physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley. But Dr. Conley offered few further details about the president’s treatment, including whether he was still taking a steroid.

Dr. Conley’s statement said Mr. Trump has not needed supplemental oxygen since returning from the hospital. But the full picture of the his health remains murky. Doctors, for instance, have not shared results of the president’s chest X-rays or lung scans, crucial measures of the severity of his illness.

The president — trailing in the polls and less than a month away from the election — is trying to project the image of a healthy leader, and not of a patient with Covid-19. He has said he plans to be at the next debate, on Oct. 15, when he could still be contagious. His opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., says there should not be a debate if the president still has the virus.

Since leaving the hospital Monday evening, the president has returned to minimizing the seriousness of the pandemic — even as many states in the country are experiencing serious outbreaks.

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Cocker spaniel returned after being ‘stolen’ from Beechwood Garden, Meopham, Gravesend

A Meopham family are “over the moon” after they were reunited with their missing dog, four months since they believe she was stolen.

Yesterday evening, Cintia Gardner and her family were eating dinner when they spotted Honey, their golden cocker spaniel who had been missing since June , sitting by their back door.

Honey after she was reunited with her family, having been missing since June
Honey after she was reunited with her family, having been missing since June

Moments later, Mrs Gardner received anonymous call from someone instructing her to look in the back garden, before hanging up.

Mrs Gardner, who has two children aged three and eight, said: “No one was out there, it was very dark because there weren’t any street lights. We are over the moon. It’s almost like a miracle. The kids are extremely happy to have her back.

“Honey was very excited last night. She seems well, she’s been well looked after.”

The Beechwood Gardens family have no idea who bought the 21-month-old back or made the anonymous call.

Mrs Cintia said: “The most important thing is Honey is back home with her family where she belongs.”

Honey is now back home has been missing since June 17
Honey is now back home has been missing since June 17

A campaign was launched to find Honey after she vanished from her cul-de-sac home, with a search party launched, posters plastered in the local area and a Facebook group set up.

The spaniel was micro-chipped and wearing a collar with the family’s number on it when she went missing.

The family think Honey might have left her garden through an open gate, following another dog, but they don’t know for sure.

The month the beloved pooch disappeared, a stolen cavapoo called Peanut was found by police wandering along a busy road in Maidstone , three days after he was reported missing.

The Kennel Club, an organisation dedicated to the welfare of dogs, warned during the summer that scams and instances of rip-off merchants illegally selling puppies have sky-rocketed during the coronavirus crisis.

Mrs Gardner thanked Dog Lost UK, an organisation which tries to reunite owners with their pets, for all their assistance.

Kent Police has been contacted for comment.

Escaped animals, unusual finds and news from the RSPCA can all be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend

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