Trump addresses 2,000 supporters at White House rally in first public speech since Covid diagnosis
Donald Trump arrives on October 10, 2020 (AP) to speak to a crowd of supporters from the balcony of the Blue Room of the White House.
Donald Trump's first public speech since his dramatic hospital exit and early return Monday saw no social distancing from attendees, but many wore masks as the White House remains at the center of a Covid-19 outbreak.
It is unclear whether Trump is still contagious and questions remain about his health and when he was infected. The White House has refused to declare that he is no longer able to infect others.
Trump's first personal event since he tested positive for the coronavirus just over a week ago was fearfully watched by health experts as the focus may be on the president, but more than two dozen employees were also infected.
Trump spoke on Saturday from the balcony of the Blue Room of the White House overlooking the South Lawn to the 2,000 people. He appeared wearing a mask and took it off to speak.
Lafayette Square and the surrounding streets have been closed for the rally by police and intelligence agencies. This marked the president's return to public appearance since he was discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday.
Many of those in attendance came from an earlier event organized by conservative activist Candace Owens' group Blexit, which aims to encourage blacks and other minorities to leave the Democratic Party and register as Republicans.
"I feel great," Trump told the enthusiastic crowd before reiterating his claim that the virus will go away by the end of October, despite more than 50,000 new cases a day and an estimated 235,000 deaths.
Trump spoke for 18 minutes at the rally, which was billed as a "peaceful protest for law and order" - aides had said his speech would take half an hour.
Despite fears that the virus could still spread to the president's mansion and offices, Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump's advisor on Covid-19, seen next to the crowd not wearing a mask.
As a radiologist rather than a public health or infectious disease specialist, his appointment as adviser to the president earlier this summer was criticized.
Dr. Atlas advocated reopening schools, and the Washington Post reported that he was in favor of a herd immunity strategy, which he later denied, despite speaking on the subject in a July interview with Fox News.
When the president tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, Dr. Atlas back on the network, saying it was no surprise people got the infection even with precautionary measures.
“I expect a full, complete and swift restoration of normalcy after his necessary term of detention. I assume it is back on the road and in full swing, "he said.
Although the president encouraged those in attendance to vote and defeated former Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris of the Democratic campaigners, the White House insisted that Saturday's rally was not a campaign event.
Judd Deere, Assistant Secretary of the White House, told pool reporters that the event was not a campaign event when asked if it was in breach of the Hatch Act.
He said any campaign signs seen were brought by the attendees: "We don't distribute anything, but people can bring things into the complex."
The speech will take place two weeks after the Rose Garden Superspreader event, which celebrated Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination as a potential Supreme Court judge.
More than 30 White House-affiliates have since tested positive for the virus.
On Monday, the president will be back on what he called the "BIG RALLY" campaign in Sanford, Florida.
With coverage from The Associated Press
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