COVID-Infected Trump Holds First In-Person Event at the White House Since Hospitalization
Less than a week after returning to the White House following a three-day coronavirus hospitalization, President Donald Trump attended his first in-person event at the White House.
On Saturday, Trump, who did not wear a face mask, appeared at an event on the South Lawn, which was billed as a "peaceful protest for law & order," where he addressed a crowd from the White House balcony.
"First of all, I'm feeling great," the president said to the 2,000 visitors, who were not socially distanced from one another. The attendees are part of a group called "Blexit," which is a campaign to convince minorities to leave the Democratic Party, according to the Washington Post.
Next, Trump is scheduled to attend three rallies: a Sanford, Florida, event on Monday, a Johnstown, Pennsylvania, event on Tuesday, and a Des Moines, Iowa, event on Wednesday.
Ahead of Saturday's event, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah told reporters they were "making sure we’re taking precautions" and that all in attendance would be screened for COVID-19. "The president’s at a great distance, he’s going to be up on a balcony and very briefly address the supporters there" she added. "He’s eager to get back out and be talking to the American people.”
Farah also said that Trump hopes to begin traveling again.
"Hopefully once he’s cleared by the doctor, he’ll be back on the road soon," she said, declining to answer questions about if the White House would confirm the president had tested negative for the virus.
Speaking separately with Fox News' Sean Hannity, before the weekend, the president also declined to say if he had tested negative — raising the specter of his still being infectious while attending large events a little more than a week after first announcing he had tested positive.
Saturday's event took place less than a day after Trump opened up about his hospitalization and coronavirus symptoms during his first on-camera interview. Appearing on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight Friday, Trump said that he was feeling "really good" and had been off medication for eight hours.
According to the president, his symptoms included a sore throat and a lack of energy. Trump also claimed that he “didn’t have a problem with breathing,” although doctors previously revealed that the president had been given supplemental oxygen following his diagnosis.
Trump went on to say that his treatment has now concluded and that he will be tested again for COVID-19 on Saturday, although he declined to go into specifics about his most recent results. "I have been re-tested and I know I'm at either the bottom of the scale or free," Trump said.
Although both Trump and his aides have repeatedly declined to state when the president’s most recent negative test for COVID-19 was, doctors have continued to speak optimistically about his condition.
In a memo to reporters on Thursday, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley previously said that he "fully anticipate[s] the President's safe return to public engagements" by Saturday.
Conley previously suggested to reporters that the timeline would be a little longer, saying on Monday when Trump left the hospital that it would be another week of the president's condition staying the same or getting better before "will all take that final, deep sigh of relief."
Saturday's appearance marked Trump's latest attempt to project strength and reframe the discussion around his much-scrutinized handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — which included months of refusing to wear masks as well as dismissing the severity of the highly contagious virus.
Trump also repeatedly insisted that he will be well enough to have an in-person debate against Joe Biden next week, although the second debate has since been canceled after Trump objected to it being held remotely out of health concerns.
In a statement from Trump’s campaign released Thursday evening, campaign manager Bill Stepien — one of several senior aides who has been infected in the recent White House outbreak — claimed there was "no medical reason” why the second debate should be postponed or held virtually, which Trump has vehemently opposed.
"It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22," the Commission on Presidential Debates said in a statement Friday.
While Trump has shared a number of pre-taped messages on social media since returning to the White House on Monday — and continued to tweet — he has mostly stayed out of sight while recovering.
He has also claimed that the novel coronavirus is not comparably more dangerous than the seasonal flu, despite killing tens of thousands more people in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the White House is grappling with its own outbreak. In the last two weeks, more than two dozen people who were around Trump have since tested positive themselves, according to The New York Times.
At an outdoor ceremony held at the White House for Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett last month, many guests were not seen wearing masks or socially distancing and the gathering proved to be a “super-spreader” event, according to experts.
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