Trump to hold first White House event after coronavirus diagnosis
President Trump plans to hold an in-person event at the White House on Saturday, two officials confirmed to The Hill, his first public engagement since being diagnosed with the coronavirus last week.
One White House official said that Trump will deliver remarks from the Blue Room Balcony to guests on the South Lawn, suggesting he will not be in close proximity to any of those in attendance.
The event is being coordinated with one organized by conservative activist Candace Owens and Trump’s remarks are expected to focus on “law and order,” according to ABC News, which first reported the plans. It is expected to attract hundreds of attendees, despite the pandemic.
A source with knowledge of the planning of Owens’ group said that all attendees would be required to bring a mask with them to the event and instructed to wear it while on the White House complex. Guests will also be required to submit to a coronavirus screening, meaning a temperature check and questionnaire.
“The health and safety of all attendees is our priority and following CDC guidelines is strongly encouraged,” the person said.
White House physician Sean Conley said in a memo Thursday that Trump would be able to make a “safe return” to public events by Saturday, which marks 10 days since Trump’s diagnosis, and that he has responded “extremely well” to his treatment for COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that patients self-isolate for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus. Trump was diagnosed with the virus last Thursday night and was treated with the antiviral medication remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an experimental antibody cocktail.
Some health experts have expressed skepticism with plans to allow Trump to return to public engagements so soon, noting that those with severe symptoms are told to isolate for longer, up to 20 days, and that there remains a risk that his symptoms could return or worsen. The White House has not said yet whether Trump has tested negative for the virus since his diagnosis, and Conley did not issue a memo updating the public on Trump’s condition on Friday.
“Given the lack of transparency on his health … it’s difficult to say whether the president’s case is moderate or severe. Certainly, he was given all the treatments that one would expect for a severe course,” said Anand Parekh, chief medical adviser for the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Trump has been eager to get back to work and campaigning, with the election less than four weeks away. He worked from the Oval Office for three days straight this week, after being hospitalized for treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center over the weekend. White House officials say they have increased the use of personal protective gear for those coming in contact with Trump and kept the traffic through the Oval Office extremely limited.
Trump indicated Thursday evening in a phone interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that he wanted to hold rallies this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, however his campaign announced later that Trump would headline a rally in Sanford, Fla., on Monday evening.
White House officials have indicated that Trump would be tested to ensure he is no longer contagious before restarting campaign travel in order to make sure that he is not infectious.
“There are medical tests underway that will ensure that when the president is back out there, he will not be able to transmit the virus,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany in an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Friday morning. McEnany announced Monday she had the coronavirus.
Trump said during a pre-taped Fox News interview that aired Friday evening that he had been tested that day but did not appear familiar with the results.
The decision to resume events at the White House, which has grappled with its own outbreak of COVID-19 over the past week, is likely to call attention to the degree to which the administration is adhering to public health guidelines amid a pandemic that has killed over 210,000 Americans. The event comes as coronavirus cases rise in parts of the country.
Many of the individuals that have caught the virus were present at a White House Rose Garden event during which Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, bluntly described it as a “super-spreader event” during a radio interview Friday.
Officials at that event and other occasions, including Trump’s Republican National Convention speech on the South Lawn in August, eschewed public health guidelines by not wearing face coverings or practicing social distancing. Trump’s campaign rallies also feature large crowds of people with limited mask usage.
“I am concerned if the plan is to return to ‘business as usual’ on the campaign trail. Large public events without physical distancing and wearing of masks is a recipe for disaster and transmission of the virus,” said Parekh, who was also a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Updated: 5:53 p.m.