US President Donald Trump has appeared back to his old self as he addressed supporters at the White House in his first public event since being diagnosed with COVID-19 and his doctor said he was no longer a transmission risk.
Trump took a test on Saturday which showed that he was no longer a “transmission risk to others”, his physician Sean Conley said in a statement, adding an assortment of tests taken by the president showed there was no longer evidence “of actively replicating virus”.
The White House had no immediate comment on whether Conley’s statement indicated the president had tested negative for the coronavirus.
Standing alone and not wearing a mask, the Republican president spoke from a White House balcony on Saturday afternoon – his first public event since being diagnosed with the highly contagious disease.
Trump was hospitalised on October 2 for treatment of COVID-19 and returned to the White House on Monday.
Trump urged a packed crowd of hundreds of largely Black and Latino supporters, most wearing masks but not respecting social distancing guidelines, to help get out the vote in the November 3 presidential election.
Trump plans to travel to Florida, Pennsylvania, and Iowa, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively.
“I’m feeling great,” he told the crowd.
Speaking firmly and without hesitation, Trump delivered a shorter-than-usual campaign speech, hailing his record in fighting crime and boosting the US economy, while slamming Democrats as his supporters cheered. A flesh-coloured bandage was visible on his right hand.
It was the first public event Trump has held since he was released from a three-night stay in hospital on Monday, when some observers watching his return to the White House said he appeared at times to be short of breath.
The White House has released videos and Trump has called into television shows since then but this was the public’s first chance to see the president live.
Trump’s speech touched on scrapping former president Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, popularly known as Obamacare, criminal justice reform, and the state of the economy.
But opinion polls increasingly show voters see November 3 as a chance to cast a judgment on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
Trump and his administration have faced widespread criticism for their handling of the pandemic, as well as for a lax approach to mask-wearing and social distancing in the White House and – in recent days – confusing messages about how ill the president has been.
Democrats and some commentators criticised Saturday’s White House event for potentially exposing a new batch of supporters to the virus and for using a federal building as an election prop.
Asked about it in New Castle, Delaware, Biden said he hoped Trump and his supporters were taking precautions.
“They should be socially distant and wearing masks,” he said. “It’s the only responsible thing to do.”