WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has tested negative for COVID-19 and he is not infectious to others, the White House physician said on Monday, 10 days after Trump announced he had contracted the coronavirus.
In a memo released by the White House just hours before Trump was due to resume holding campaign rallies, Dr. Sean Conley said the president had tested negative on consecutive days using an Abbott Laboratories <ABT.N> BinaxNOW antigen card.
Conley said the negative tests and other clinical and laboratory data “indicate a lack of detectable viral replication.”
Trump’s medical team had determined that based on the data and guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “the president is not infectious to others,” Conley said.
Trump returns to the campaign trail on Monday night with a rally in Sanford, Florida, his first since he disclosed on Oct. 2 that he tested positive for COVID-19.
Critics fault Trump for failing to encourage supporters at campaign events, and even White House staff, to wear protective masks and abide by social-distancing guidelines. At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for the coronavirus.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot)
A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health titan who led the eradication of smallpox asked the embattled, current CDC leader to expose the failed U.S. response to the new coronavirus, calling on him to orchestrate his own firing to protest White House interference.
Dr. William Foege, a renowned epidemiologist who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, detailed in a private letter he sent last month to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield his alarm over how the agency has fallen in stature while the pandemic raged across America.
Foege, who has not previously been a vocal critic of the agency’s handling of the novel coronavirus, called on Redfield to openly address the White House’s meddling in the agency’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis and then accept the political sacrifice that would follow. He recommended that Redfield commit to writing the administration’s failures — and his own — so there was a record that could not be dismissed.
Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.
“You could upfront, acknowledge the tragedy of responding poorly, apologize for what has happened and your role in acquiescing,” Foege wrote to Redfield. He added that simply resigning without coming clean would be insufficient. “Don’t shy away from the fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our country. It is a slaughter and not just a political dispute.”
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for Redfield’s response. Redfield, an HIV/AIDS expert and former military physician, lacked experience running a public health agency when Trump selected him to head the CDC in 2018.
White House spokesman Judd Deere did not respond to the contents of the letter but said in a statement that the CDC has not been compromised. “This dishonest narrative that the media and Democrats have created that politics is influencing decisions is not only false but is a danger to the American public,” Deere said.
MORE: How the CDC failed public health officials fighting the coronavirus
Foege’s Sept. 23 letter, which was obtained by USA TODAY and has not been previously reported, is a striking condemnation from a legendary public health figure who has spent decades helping prevent the spread of diseases while earning the respect of peers.
In an interview, Foege said he felt compelled to write to Redfield after the White House appointed Dr. Scott Atlas to the coronavirus task force, even though he is not an infectious disease expert.
The Washington Post and other outlets have reported that Atlas has endorsed the controversial strategy of herd immunity, although Atlas has denied doing so.
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he was 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 Monday.
By ZEKE MILLER, JILL COLVIN and AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — 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.”
Adding to the confusion about his status, Trump briefly left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda to wave to supporters from a motorcade, after releasing a video on Twitter thanking people who had gathered outside the facility.
“We’re getting great reports from the doctors,” Trump said in the video before promising a “little surprise” to his supporters. “It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about covid.”
At a news conference earlier Sunday, Trump’s medical team tried to clear up the muddled picture it had created the previous day when White House doctor Sean Conley falsely suggested that Trump had not been given supplemental oxygen.
But Conley continued to avoid directly answering specific questions about Trump’s health Sunday, even as he revealed that the president had been given dexamethasone, a steroid that is typically reserved for severely ill coronavirus patients needing oxygen. Conley openly admitted to withholding truthful information about Trump’s plummeting blood-oxygen levels Friday, indicating he did so to put a positive spin on the president’s improving condition.
“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, that his course of illness, has had,” Conley said Sunday, explaining why he told reporters Saturday that Trump had not been given oxygen Friday. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”
Conley also announced that Trump’s oxygen levels had dropped again on Saturday. Asked if Trump had been administered supplemental oxygen as a result, Conley said he did not know and would have to check with the nursing staff.
The episode continued what has been a days-long torrent of falsehoods, obfuscation, evasion, misdirection and imprecision from those surrounding Trump as he faces the greatest threat to a president’s health in decades. From the chief White House doctor to the president’s chief of staff, the inability to provide clear, direct and consistent information about Trump’s condition has been widespread since the coronavirus began rapidly circulating in the West Wing.
Trump, his doctors and White House aides sought to portray him as improving and largely unencumbered by the virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans. White House aides emphasized that Trump was continuing to work while at Walter Reed, casting him as a triumphant warrior.
In the Twitter video, Trump said he has spent part of his time at Walter Reed visiting wounded warriors and first responders but did not provide details about how those patients were protected against him infecting them with the coronavirus. He also implied he understood the virus better than medical experts after having contracted it.
“I learned it by really going to school — this is the real school. This isn’t the let’s-read-the-book school,” he said. “And I get it, and I understand it.”
The president donned a mask as he waved to a crowd of fans from inside a