BY ANDREA SHALAL
Donald Trump is no longer a transmission risk for COVID-19, his doctor said late on Saturday, as the U.S. president seeks to put his bout with coronavirus behind him and return to the campaign fray.
Trump, trailing his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls, addressed supporters from a White House balcony on Saturday afternoon. He urged a crowd of hundreds of largely Black and Latino supporters to help get out the vote in the Nov. 3 election.
His physician Sean Conley said in a statement later that Trump had taken a test on Saturday showing he was no longer “a transmission risk to others,” and there was no longer evidence “of actively replicating virus.”
The White House had no immediate comment on whether Conley’s statement meant Trump had actually tested negative for the coronavirus.
Trump first revealed that he had tested positive on Oct. 2, and spent three days in hospital. The White House has not disclosed when Trump last tested negative.
Trump is eager to get back on the campaign trail after an absence of more than a week. He plans to travel to the key battleground state of Florida on Monday, followed by rallies in Pennsylvania and Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
“I’m feeling great,” he told the crowd.
The president’s illness has cast a spotlight on the pandemic, which has infected nearly 7.7 million people in the United States and killed over 213,000. His administration has faced criticism for its handling of the crisis, and for its lax approach to mask-wearing and social distancing in the White House. At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for coronavirus.
Speaking firmly and with no sign of the raspy throat evident in recent interviews, Trump delivered a shorter-than-usual campaign speech.
He attacked Democrats as pursuing a “socialist” or even “Communist” agenda, and hailed his own record in fighting crime and boosting the U.S. economy, while flag-waving supporters cheered and chanted, “We love you.”
Democrats and some commentators criticized Saturday’s 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 the president and his supporters were taking precautions.
“They should be socially distant and wearing masks,” he said. “It’s the only responsible thing to do.”
Trump standing alone at the event, was not wearing a mask as he spoke. In the crowd, most were wearing masks but not following social distancing guidelines.
Trump repeated past calls for states to reopen their economies even as new cases hit a two-month high on Friday. A Reuters analysis showed more than 58,000 infections were reported and hospitalizations in the Midwest hit a record for a fifth successive day.
Opinion polls show Biden with a substantial lead nationally, although with a narrower advantage in some of the states that may decide the election outcome.