Trump appears at White House rally
President addresses crowd hours before doctor says he can’t make people sick
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday made his first public appearance after being hospitalized for the coronavirus, defying public health guidelines to speak to a crowd of hundreds even as the White House refused to declare that he was not contagious.
Trump took off a mask moments after he emerged on the White House balcony to address the crowd, his first step back onto the public stage with just more than three weeks to go until Election Day. But, five days after Trump returned from Walter Reed Medical Center, his health remained a mystery as White House officials refused to reveal if he had tested negative or if hewas still at risk of spreading the virus.
Hours after the rally ended, Trump’s doctor said Saturday the president is no longer at risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
In amemo, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley said Trump meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for safely discontinuing isolation and that by
“currently recognized standards” he is no longer considered a transmission risk. The memo did not mention whether Trump has since tested negative for COVID-19.
Trump’s return to the public stage was a brief one.
With bandages visible on his hands, likely from an intravenous injection, Trump spoke for 18 minutes, far less than at his normal hour-plus rallies. He appeared healthy, if perhaps a little hoarse, as he delivered what was, for all intents and purposes, a short version of his campaign speech.
Though billed as an official event, Trump offered no policy
proposals and instead delivered attacks on Democrat Joe Biden while praising lawenforcement to a crowd of several hundred, most of whom wore masks while few adhered to social distancing guidelines.
“I’m feeling great,” said Trump, who said he was thankful for their good wishes and prayers as he recovered. He then declared that the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans, was “disappearing” even though he is still recovering from the virus.
Officials organized the crowd just steps from the Rose Garden, where exactly twoweeks ago the president held another large gathering to formally announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. That event is now being eyed as a possible COVID-19 superspreader as more than two dozen people in attendance have contracted the virus.
Trump had hoped to hold campaign rallies this weekend but settled for the White House event. But even as his health remained unclear, he planned to ramp up his travel with a rally in Florida on Monday, followed by trips to Pennsylvania and Iowa on subsequent days. It was not clear if
Trump posed a risk to those he would fly with on Air Force One or encounter at the rally sites.
Before the speech, White House officials said they had no information to release on whether the president was tested for COVID-19, meaning he madehis first publicappear
ance without the White House verifying that he’s no longer contagious.
Security was stepped up around the White House before the event, whichwas called a “peaceful protest for law and order” and predominantly attended by Black and Latino supporters.
As questions linger about his health— and Democratic opponent Joe Biden steps up his own campaigning — Trump has more frequently called into radio and TV programs to speak with conservative interviewers, hoping to make up for lost time with just over three weeks until Election Day and mil
lions already voting.
Biden’s campaign said he again tested negative on Saturday for COVID-19. Biden was potentially exposed to the coronavirus during his Sept. 29 debate with Trump, who announced his positive diagnosis 48 hours later.
The president had not been seen in public — other than in White House-produced videos — since his return five days ago from the military hospital, where he received experimental treatments for the coronavirus.
On Saturday, all attendees were required to bring masks or were provided with them, and were given temperature checks and asked to fill out a brief questionnaire.
Trump’s Monday event in Sanford, Florida, what he’s described as a “BIG RALLY,” was originally scheduled to be held Oct. 2, the day after he tested positive. Ahead of his Saturday event, Trump used Twitter to share news articles about problems with mail-in ballots in New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.
Trump’s return to public activity came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, cautioned the White House again to avoid large-scale gatherings of people without masks.
He said of the Barrett event, “I was not surprised to see a superspreader event given the circumstances.”
District of Columbia virus restrictions prohibit outdoor gatherings larger than 50 people, although that rule has not been strictly enforced. Masks are mandatory outdoors for most people, but the regulations don’t apply on federal land.
President Donald Trump addresses supporters Saturday at the White House in his first public event since his hospitalization for COVID-19.
Hundreds of supporters cheer as President Donald Trump appears on a balcony of the White House on Saturday.