WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump said on Sunday that his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for Covid-19, the latest member of the US President's inner circle - where mask wearing is rare - to contract the disease.
The 76-year-old former New York City mayor's age puts him in a high-risk group, and the New York Times and ABC reported that he was hospitalised on Sunday in Washington as the United States faces a record surge in coronavirus cases.
Mr Giuliani's diagnosis comes after he had been criss-crossing the country, leading the President's defiant - and unsuccessful - effort to undo Mr Joe Biden's victory in the Nov 3 presidential election.
During his travels, Mr Giuliani has been seen frequently without a mask: Last Wednesday, he was at the Michigan state assembly in Lansing with his face uncovered for a hearing lasting over four hours.
Last Thursday, CNN showed footage of him in Atlanta walking maskless down a hall, chatting with several other people whose faces were uncovered.
"Giuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China virus," Mr Trump tweeted, using a term he applies to the coronavirus that has been widely decried as racist and fanning conspiracy theories.
"Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!" the President added.
A few hours earlier, Mr Giuliani was interviewed live on Fox News and showed no signs of the disease.
Mr Trump's legal team said in a statement that Mr Giuliani tested negative twice before his most recent trip and "did not experience any symptoms or test positive for Covid-19 until more than 48 hours after his return".
Other members of the legal team will follow their doctors' orders and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on self-isolation and testing, the statement said.
Mr Giuliani tweeted on Sunday that he was "getting great care and feeling good". "Recovering quickly and keeping up with everything," he said.
The lawyer's diagnosis came a day after the President, who has long played down the severity of the pandemic and even mocked those who wear masks, held his first big political rally since the election - before a tightly packed crowd of thousands of largely unmasked supporters in Georgia.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx expressed frustration on Sunday at anti-mask sentiment in the US. "I hear community members... parroting back that masks don't work," she told NBC's Meet The Press. "They are wrong."