Trump, still recovering from COVID-19, returns to Oval Office for briefing


U.S. President Donald Trump remained out of sight for a second day on Wednesday recovering from COVID-19, but he returned to work in the Oval Office and made his presence known on social media as he tweeted broadsides against Democrats, floated false disease figures and pushed lawmakers to take up piecemeal economic aid proposals after nixing negotiations on a broader assistance package.

It was Trump’s first visit to the Oval Office since being discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. While there, he was briefed on Hurricane Delta, which is bearing down on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and on economic stimulus prospects.

Trump’s doctor reported Wednesday that the president continued to make progress in his recovery.

Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said Trump had declared, “I feel great!”

Conley added in a memo that Trump had been symptom-free for more than 24 hours and that his oxygen saturation level and respiratory rate were normal. The memo also said a blood test on Monday showed Trump had coronavirus antibodies, substances that fight infection, but he had been given an experimental drug on Friday containing these.

WATCH | Trump given COVID-19 treatments for varying degrees of illness:

U.S. President Donald Trump has received 3 different treatments for COVID-19, which are separately designed to treat patients with mild, moderate and severe symptoms. 2:00

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it’s not possible for this type of blood test to distinguish between antibodies that Trump’s body may be making and those supplied by the company’s drug. Most likely, the ones detected in the Monday test are from the drug, the company said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said individuals can discontinue isolation 10 days after symptom onset. While reports of reinfection are rare, the CDC recommends that even people who recover from COVID-19 continue to wear a mask, stay physically distanced from others and follow other precautions.

Extra precautions at White House

Aides were instructed to take extensive precautions to prevent themselves from catching the coronavirus from the president. And while aides say he is working, White House officials have offered scant details of what Trump is up to beyond noting that he’s spoken with Republican leaders and worked with senior advisers in recent days.

White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern said Trump “wants to speak to the American people and he will do so soon.” But Morgenstern said he did not have specific details about when Trump may make a public appearance.

Amid the national public health crisis, a personal one and warning flares from leading economists that the virus-scarred economy badly needs stimulus, Trump pushed out more than four dozen tweets by midday praising supporters and eviscerating his opponents.

WATCH | Joe Biden urges Trump to listen to the scientists:

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says that while he was glad to see Trump recording a video message on the weekend, he urged him to support a mask mandate. 0:32

He again publicly played down the virus on Twitter after his return from a three-day hospitalization, though even more aides tested positive, including one of his closest advisers, Stephen Miller. All told, more than a dozen White House staffers have tested positive.

Even as the White House has become a ghost complex this week because of the disease, Trump pushed out video of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaking of her decision to resist COVID-19 restrictions in her state and thanked a supporter who tweeted she “would wade though a sea of COVID infested water to vote for President Trump on November 3rd.”

In one significant national coronavirus action, Trump declared on Tuesday that there would be no action before the election on economic-stimulus legislation — not long after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said such help was essential for recovery, as the country reels from the human and economic cost of the pandemic.

Stocks fell on the White House news but were recovering Wednesday after Trump floated the idea of piecemeal aid. He later tweeted his support for a range of stimulus proposals that appear to be a political non-starter before Election Day.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke briefly on Wednesday morning about the chances for a stand-alone airline rescue, Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill tweeted. Pelosi directed Mnuchin to a measure she had attempted to pass on Friday on short notice under fast-track procedures, but only after Democrats made a number of changes Republicans did not like.

Debate over having debate

Meanwhile, Trump was grappling with his next political steps exactly four weeks from the election. Anxious to project strength, Trump, who is still contagious with the virus, tweeted Tuesday that he was planning to attend next week’s debate with Democrat Joe Biden in Miami.

Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president continues to test positive for COVID-19. Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”

Trump has falsely suggested that the virus was akin to the seasonal flu.

WATCH | Trump’s tweets on flu an ‘absolute lie,’ says expert:

U.S. President Trump is minimizing the importance of masks and lying about the severity of COVID-19 when comparing it to the flu in his tweets, says respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta. 1:12

“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” the president tweeted. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”

In fact, COVID-19 has already proven to be a more potent killer, particularly among older populations, than seasonal flu and has shown indications of having long-term impacts on the health of younger people it infects. The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in far fewer yearly deaths than Trump said — between 12,000 and 61,000 annually since 2010.

Trump was working out of makeshift office space on the ground floor of the White House residence, in close proximity to the White House Medical Unit’s office suite, with only a few aides granted a face-to-face audience. The West Wing was largely vacant, as a number of Trump’s aides were either sick or in quarantine after exposure to people infected with the virus or otherwise working remotely as a precaution.

First lady Melania Trump was isolating upstairs in the White House. She tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday.

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