Donald Trump is holding his first public event since being diagnosed with COVID-19, as the United States president seeks to show the public he is fit to resume campaigning ahead of the November 3 elections.
Trump was not wearing a mask as he addressed a crowd of dozens of cheering supporters Saturday afternoon from a White House balcony, where he spoke about “law and order” issues in the country.
The event comes after White House physician Sean Conley said the president could once again hold public events as of Saturday, 10 days after he tested positive for COVID-19.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people infected with COVID-19 can see others 10 days after their symptoms first appeared, provided their symptoms are improving and they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of medication.
But public health experts have cautioned against holding large public events where congregants do not wear masks to prevent the potential spread of the novel coronavirus – and some observers questioned Trump’s decision to hold Saturday’s address.
Trump returned to the White House on October 5 after receiving COVID-19 treatment at Walter Reed hospital [Alex Brandon/AP]The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, on Friday said an event held late last month in the White House Rose Garden for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, was a “superspreader event” that is believed to have infected numerous people.
“I was not surprised to see a super-spreader event given the circumstances. Crowded, congregate setting, not wearing masks. It is not surprising to see an outbreak,” Fauci told The Associated Press news agency.
Maeve Reston, a CNN political reporter, said White House safety protocols did not appear to have changed much since Trump tested positive for COVID-19. An unnamed source told CNN that Saturday’s event attendees must bring masks and will be subject to temperature checks.
“But when it comes to preventing the spread of the disease, the White House still seems to be flouting basic public health precautions, with their Saturday protocol not looking much different from the September 26 Rose Garden event,” Reston wrote.
Push to resume campaign
However, Trump, who has been unable to travel since returning to the White House on October 5 from Walter Reed hospital where he was treated for the disease, has pushed to get back to campaigning.
Trump had urged his campaign to quickly schedule a rally in a battleground state but logistical obstacles prevented it.
Instead, he announced on Friday he would hold a rally in Florida on Monday. His campaign said Saturday that Trump would hold an event in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and another in Iowa on Wednesday.
Will be in Sanford, Florida on Monday for a very BIG RALLY! https://t.co/TTOlHJT8kr
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020
Trump’s absence from the campaign trail has given a temporary advantage to Joe Biden who has continued to meet with voters in key states – and it has thrown the election campaign into disarray, forcing the cancellation of the second presidential debate, which was scheduled for October 15.
The former vice president is campaigning in Pennsylvania on Saturday for a second time this week. He was also in Nevada and Arizona, two key southwestern states that both candidates are fighting for in the election.
Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis had thrown the election campaign into uncertainty, and dozens of presidential aides, as well as top Republican legislators, also tested positive for the disease as part of the outbreak.