Trump ap­pears at White House rally

Pres­i­dent ad­dresses crowd hours be­fore doc­tor says he can’t make peo­ple sick

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Lemire

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.

SA­MUEL CORUM/GETTY

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ad­dresses sup­port­ers Satur­day at the White House in his first pub­lic event since his hos­pi­tal­iza­tion for COVID-19.

ALEX BRAN­DON/AP

Hun­dreds of sup­port­ers cheer as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­pears on a bal­cony of the White House on Satur­day.

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