Trump, downplaying risk, says he’s ready to ‘kiss everyone’ at his first campaign trail rally since COVID-19 diagnosis

President Trump in his return to the campaign trail in Florida on Monday evening boasted he has recovered from COVID-19 and is impervious to the disease that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

The president, who tested positive on Oct. 1, also indicated he is unconcerned about being contagious and told the audience gathered at Orlando Sanford International Airport that he would be happy to engage in some close contact. 

“One thing with me, the nice part, I went through it, now they say I’m immune. … I feel so powerful,” Trump said. “I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys, and the beautiful women, and the — everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”

Trump spoke for about an hour. While his remarks were short by the standards of his past rallies, which are often about 80 minutes long, it was far longer than any of the brief videos he released while recovering from the virus or his first live speech, which took place at the White House on Saturday and lasted less than 2 minutes. 

The president’s return to the campaign trail came shortly after the White House medical team announced that he tested negative “on consecutive days.” Trump’s return to public events came exactly 10 days after the White House said his symptoms first appeared, which is the period of isolation recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Trump, who was treated with steroids and experimental drugs, became ill after his campaign and the White House hosted a series of events that ignored masks and social distancing measures designed to stop the spread of the virus. Over a dozen people linked to those gatherings also tested positive, including senior members of the president’s campaign team and White House staff.

The White House has declined to reveal precisely how many staffers have fallen ill. Trump’s team has also repeatedly refused to say when he last tested negative prior to his diagnosis, raising the possibility that the testing regimen supposedly in place at the White House was not followed and also making it impossible to say whether the president traveled to events while contagious. 

Even after the cluster of cases at the White House, Trump’s Florida rally still didn’t include standard measures designed to minimize risks of coronavirus spread. Guests were packed together and many did not wear masks. 

On stage, Trump, as he has for months, criticized lockdowns and quarantine measures as detrimental to the economy. He encouraged people to ignore them if they choose.

“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself,” Trump said of the lockdowns.“If you want to stay, stay. Relax. Stay. But, if you want to get out there, get out.”



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Trump at a campaign rally in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/AP)


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President Trump at a campaign rally in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/AP)

The president also suggested keeping distance from others was never an option for him.   

Video: President Trump: White House doctors said I can’t spread the virus anymore

2020 Election Live Updates: Trump Will Hit the Trail as the Barrett Hearings Begin

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The event that conservatives hoped would reshape the 2020 election is upon us: The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett begin Monday at 9 a.m. Eastern time and promise to last most of the week. Republicans have regarded her nomination as an opportunity to reinvigorate voters on the right and refocus the broader electorate on matters other than the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, Judge Barrett’s appointment has not worked out that way. The White House event at which President Trump announced her election became a major transmission point for the coronavirus — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci called it a “super-spreader event” — and at least two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been infected. Mr. Trump’s bout with the disease, and rising case counts across most of the country, have relegated the Supreme Court fight to the political background for most of the last few weeks.

There is still hope within the G.O.P. that Democrats might fumble the hearings in a way that could be politically useful to them — a concern some Democrats share, given the apparently diminished capacities of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel that will screen the nomination. And at the very least, the hearings give Republicans something to talk about besides Mr. Trump and the virus, even if that is where most voters remain focused. That could be no small favor in red states where Senate seats are at stake.

It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Trump will cooperate with efforts to shift the spotlight this week. He is due on Monday to campaign in Florida, making his first in-person appearance outside Washington since he tested positive for the coronavirus. The president’s insistence on returning to the campaign trail while there are still huge unanswered questions about his medical condition, including about the continued presence of the coronavirus in his body and his ability to transmit it to others, has the potential to become a bigger story than the opening stages of the judicial confirmation process.

That may be doubly the case if Mr. Trump and his supporters continue their practice of flouting basic public-health guidelines for large events, as has been their tendency up to this point.

The question for Democrats — not just Joseph R. Biden Jr. but the party’s whole ticket — may be how much time and political capital they will put into making a strenuous public case against Judge Barrett, at a moment when Mr. Trump continues to serve up generous quantities of easier political fodder for the election that is only weeks away.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Trump claims he’s free of virus, ready for campaign trail

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Sunday declared he was ready to return to the campaign trail despite unanswered questions about his health on the eve of a Florida rally meant to kick off the stretch run before Election Day.

His impending return comes after the White House doctor said he was no longer at risk of transmitting the coronavirus but did not say explicitly whether Trump had tested negative for it. The president insisted he was now “immune” from the virus, a claim that was impossible to prove and added to the unknowns about the president’s health.

“I’m immune,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “The president is in very good shape to fight the battles.”

In a memo released Saturday night by the White House, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley said Trump met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for safely discontinuing isolation and that by “currently recognized standards” he was no longer considered a transmission risk. The memo did not declare Trump had tested negative for the virus.


But sensitive lab tests — like the PCR test cited in the doctor’s statements — detect virus in swab samples taken from the nose and throat. Some medical experts had been skeptical that Trump could be declared free of the risk of transmitting the virus so early in the course of his illness. Just 10 days since an initial diagnosis of infection, there was no way to know for certain that someone was no longer contagious, they said.

His return to full-fledged rallies will be in Florida on Monday, a comeback that comes with the president facing stubborn deficits in the polls. The Trump campaign and White House has not indicated that any additional safety measures will be taken to prevent the transmission of the virus among those traveling on Air Force One, at the event site or at rallies scheduled for Pennsylvania and Iowa later in the week.

Campaign officials have signaled that Trump will be traveling nearly every day the rest of the campaign, and sometimes making more than one stop, an aggressive schedule for a 74-year-old who was hospitalized just days ago.

And with the virus again dominating the national discourse, the Trump campaign has released an ad featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci praising the president’s leadership — but the nation’s leading infectious disease expert on Sunday objected to being included.

“The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context,” Fauci said in a statement, adding that he was talking broadly about public health officials’ response to the pandemic. “In my five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed political candidates.”

Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, responded by saying that “these are Dr. Fauci’s own words” and said they were praising the administration’s response.

On Sunday, Trump asserted in a tweet that he had “total and complete sign off from White House Doctors” to fully return

Coronavirus: Trump leaves hospital, tweets that he’ll be back on campaign trail soon

Bethesda, Md. — President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for Covid-19. He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — and then he entered the White House without a protective mask.

Trump’s message alarmed infectious disease experts and suggested the president’s own illness had not caused him to rethink his often-cavalier attitude toward the disease, which has also infected the first lady and several White House aides, including new cases revealed on Monday.

Landing at the White House on Marine One, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.

The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his doctor, Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, said earlier Monday that the president remains contagious and would not be fully “out of the woods” for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital. Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the U.S. government is still being uncovered.

Still Trump indicated he won’t be kept from campaigning for long, tweeting before leaving the hospital, “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!”

Trump made a point of sounding confident earlier. He tweeted, “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. … I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

Trump’s nonchalant message about not fearing the virus comes as his own administration has encouraged Americans to be very careful and take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease as cases continue to spike across the country. For more than eight months, Trump’s efforts to play down the threat of the virus in hopes of propping up the economy ahead of the election have drawn bipartisan criticism.

“We have to be realistic in this: Covid is a complete threat to the American population,” Dr. David Nace of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said of Trump’s no-fear comment.

“Most of the people aren’t so lucky as the president,” with an in-house medical unit and access to experimental treatments, added Nace, an expert on infections in older adults.

“It’s an unconscionable message,” agreed Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread.”

There was political pushback to Trump’s attitude toward the virus, as