Trump says he's ready for rallies but details slim on health
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that he was ready to resume campaign rallies and felt "perfect" a week after his diagnosis of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans, as his doctor said said the president had completed his course of therapy "for the disease.
The president has not been seen publicly since returning from the military hospital where he received experimental treatments for the virus - except in videos produced by the White House. On Thursday his doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley said in a memo that Trump could safely return to public engagement on Saturday as the president tries to shift his focus to the elections, which are less than four weeks away and millions of Americans are already voting.
While Trump said he believed he was no longer contagious, concerns about infection appeared to be tearing down plans for next week's presidential debate.
"I feel good. Really good. I think perfect," Trump said during a phone interview with Fox Business, his first since being released from a three-day hospital stay on Monday. "I think I'm better to the point where I am Would love to hold a rally tonight, "said Trump. He added, "I don't think I'm contagious at all."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can stop isolation 10 days after the onset of symptoms, which was October 1 for Trump, according to his doctors. Conley said this meant Trump, who was surrounded by minimal staff while at work in the White House residence and the Oval Office, could hold events again on Saturday.
He added that Trump showed no signs of his illness getting worse or any side effects to the aggressive course of therapy prescribed by his doctors.
Earlier this week, the president's doctors suggested working closely with military medical research institutions and other laboratories to determine when the president was no longer contagious, but not elaborated on.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, said two negative PCR lab tests 24 hours apart were a key factor in determining if someone is still contagious.
"So if the president is symptom-free for 10 days and does the tests we talked about, good scientific evidence suggests he is not infected," Fauci said Thursday on MSNBC.
Although reports of re-infection are rare, the CDC recommends that people who recover from COVID-19 continue to wear a mask, keep their distance, and follow other precautions. It was unclear whether Trump, who avoided wearing masks in most situations, would follow this guide.
The White House continued to decline to share the last time Trump tested negative for the virus - which would help pinpoint exactly when he was infected. Alyssa Farah, director of strategic communications, said information was Trump's "private medical history".
Trump's campaign and the White House had already worked out plans to restart Trump's campaign, planning a visit to Pennsylvania on Monday and Michigan on Tuesday before next Thursday's debate.
However, the Presidential Debate Commission announced that the event would take place "virtually" to "protect the health and safety of all concerned". Trump was quick to turn down that offer, and his campaign later asked the commission to postpone the last two debates for a week to allay concerns about personal competition.
Due to objections from some aides, Trump returned to the Oval Office on Thursday, despite a work area having been set up in the living area of the White House. According to two White House officials who were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations, the aides discussed a possible photo opportunity with the President in the White House either on Thursday or Friday. However, the plans were not yet complete. Few corporate executives, medical staff and security personnel have seen the president since he returned to the White House Monday afternoon.
Trump posted a video Thursday morning, shot the day before, aimed directly at the nation's seniors - a critical demographic for his campaign who is also at greatest risk for bad outcomes from the virus - saying, "I want to, that you receive the same care as this I have. "
On Thursday, Trump continued to attribute an experimental drug for the seemingly rapid pace of his recovery. He called his diagnosis a "blessing in disguise" in the nation's fight against the pandemic.
Seemingly sensitive to the fact that his course of treatment was far more extensive than the care the average American receives, he vowed to swiftly approve the drug for wider use - and distribute it for free - even though he's not empowered to order the himself .
Trump received an experimental antibody drug made by Regeneron under a "compassionate use" exemption, recognition of the above-average standard of care he receives as President. The safety and effectiveness of the drug has not yet been established. And there is no way for the president or his doctors to know that the drug has had any effect. Most people recover from COVID-19.
"I was very lucky with this Regeneron," Trump said during the interview.
Dr. Sean Conley, the White House doctor, said in a memo on Wednesday that Trump had been symptom free for over 24 hours and that his oxygen saturation level and breathing rate were normal.
Trump speculated that he caught the virus either at the Rose Garden event on Sept. 26, where his new candidate for the Supreme Court was announced, or at a meeting with military families the following day. He said that family members often come up to him and want to "kiss" and "hug" him.
"I can't say" Back up. Stand 10 feet away, "said Trump.
Associate press writers Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee and Lauran Neergaard, Matthew Perrone, Deb Riechmann, Aamer Madhani and Jonathan Lemire in Washington contributed to this report.
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