WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump rallied hundreds of cheering supporters for a campaign-style comeback event at the White House Saturday, jumping back into the election race nine days after being stopped in his tracks by Covid-19.
“I am feeling great!” Trump declared as he stepped out to a White House balcony – tugging off his mask to address the crowd below, most of them masked under their red “Make America Great Again” hats, but with little social distancing.
“Get out and vote – and I love you,” Trump told supporters, who chanted back “USA” and “Four more years” throughout the address lasting just under 20 minutes.
Badly trailing his 77-year-old Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls less than four weeks from Election Day, Trump has been counting the days until he can hit the ground again.
The White House doctor announced late Saturday the president was “no longer considered a transmission risk.”
Tests showed there was “no longer evidence of actively replicating virus” and that Trump’s viral load was “decreasing,” Sean Conley said – though he did not state that the president is now virus-free.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that, for mild or moderate Covid-19 cases, isolation and precautions can be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset, and once patients have been fever free for 24 hours. However, the severity of Trump’s illness has not been confirmed.
Saturday’s event set the stage for a full-fledged campaign rally Monday in Florida – followed immediately by two more in battleground Pennsylvania Tuesday and Iowa Wednesday.
Biden has slammed as “reckless” Trump’s determination to rally huge crowds during the pandemic — but the president has brushed the concerns aside, insisting America has the upper hand against the virus despite a death toll of 213,000 and rising.
“I want you to know our nation is going to defeat this terrible China virus,” Trump said.
“It’s going to disappear. It is disappearing.”
“We are producing powerful therapies and drugs, and we are healing the sick and we are going to recover, and the vaccine is coming out very quickly, in record time as you know.”
While Trump, 74, has declared himself recovered – and appeared smiling and energetic at the White House – doubts linger over his health, with the president’s doctor accused of a lack of transparency with the public.
Trump’s biggest liability – overwhelming public dissatisfaction over his handling of the pandemic – has returned as the headline issue of the campaign thanks to his own infection, with cases again on the rise nationwide.