Donald Trump has urged Americans to “get out there” and not be afraid of coronavirus as he staged a ‘triumphant’ return to the White House on Monday night.
The US President had earlier walked out of the military hospital where he received an unprecedented level of care for Covid-19, saying that despite his illness his nation should not be afraid of the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
His doctor, Navy Commander Sean Conley, said the president would not be fully out of the woods for another week, but added that he had “met or exceeded all standard hospital discharge criteria”.
Trump was then flown by helicopter back to Washington DC with his campaign team releasing a video showing the President without a mask at the top of the White House stairs.
During the highly-choreographed event he then appeared to instruct a photographer to come up to the balcony to get a better photograph.
With the presidential election fast approaching on November 3, Trump is desperate to present himself as a “winner” again with Democratic rival Joe Biden leading by a significant margin in US opinion polls.
Being struck down by a virus he has constantly downplayed was the last thing the Republican campaign needed as voting day approaches.
But the 74-year-old President instead tried to present his recovery as an American triumph as he released a defiant video message on Twitter urging his fellow countrymen to defeat the virus and get back to work, just like him.
Addressing the American people directly Trump hailed the drugs he had been treated with and promised them a vaccine for the virus would arrive ‘momentarily’ as he said: “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it.
“We’re going back, we’re going back to work. We’re going to be out front. … Don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there, be careful.”
Trump will continue his recovery at the White House, where the scale of the outbreak that has reached the highest levels of the US government is still being uncovered.
Trump, his wife Melenia and a host of other insiders at the White House developed the virus in the wake of an event held to celebrate the nomination of a Supreme Court justice.
And top US virus expert Anthony Fauci said the gathering was a ‘dangerous situation’.
The September 26 ceremony in a crowded White House Rose Garden is feared to have been a “super-spreader” event as a growing number of senior Republicans have tested positive for Covid-19.
Footage showed many guests were not wearing masks or sitting two metres apart and they were hugging, shaking hands and bumping fists.
Dr Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: “When I see pictures like that, not only there but anywhere, people who are in bars congregating, people who are at parties congregating without masks, that is a dangerous situation that can lead to a high risk of transmissibility, and unfortunately, and I say really unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened during that meeting that was had to celebrate the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.”
Dr Fauci restated the need to stick to “the fundamental tenets of public health” in dealing with Covid-19, which include wearing masks, keeping distance, avoiding crowds, doing things outdoors more than indoors, and frequent handwashing.
Trump formally announced his nomination of the conservative Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court on Saturday, September 26, then tweeted on Friday that he and his wife had tested positive for Covid-19.
The president was treated in hospital for three days after being admitted with Covid-19 with the White House now the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak.
Trump, his wife, former top aide Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, University of Notre Dame president John Jenkins, senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis are among those who have tested positive since attending the nomination event.
The President’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she had tested positive for the virus on Monday morning and was entering quarantine. Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, who work in the White House’s press office, have also tested positive.
Hope Hicks, a close adviser to the president who often traveled with him on the Air Force One and Marine One presidential aircraft, tested positive for the disease on Thursday.
Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, also tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who has had frequent contact with Trump, also said on Friday she tested positive for the virus and was quarantined at home in Michigan.
Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has also tested positive.
It can take around five to six day for symptoms to start after contracting the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.
On whether the White House event could be considered a “super-spreader”, Dr Fauci said: “We haven’t done all of the precise epidemiology. But if you look at it, and some of the people that were all commonly there, that it looks like that that could have been an event where there was multiple people infected.”