President Donald Trump said he felt “powerful” during a rally in Florida on Monday, hours after his doctor said he tested negative for COVID-19 “on consecutive days” after testing positive for the virus 10 days ago.
The president in his first public appearance outside the White House since testing positive for the virus touted his health and repeated claims during a rally in Sanford, Fla., — north of Orlando — that he is “immune” to the virus, which has sickened 7.8 million people in the United States and killed more than 215,000.
“They say I’m immune. I feel so powerful,” Trump told the crowd Monday evening. “I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women … everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”
The rally came hours after White House physician Dr. Sean Conley announced Trump had tested negative for COVID-19 on consecutive days in a memo on Monday evening after the White House had repeatedly declined to say whether Trump had tested negative. Conley, however, did not state which days the negative tests were produced.
Conley’s memo also noted that laboratory data showed the virus is no longer active in Trump’s body, after previously clearing Trump for an “active schedule” and stating he was “no longer considered a transmission risk to others.”
Trump’s repeated claims that he is immune, despite no such notes from his doctors, came just a day after Twitter on Sunday flagged a tweet in which he claimed immunity.
Monday’s rally came just a week after Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he received three days of treatment for the virus.
Addressing the crowd, Trump fired back at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who in a rally in Ohio on Monday evening said Trump “doesn’t know what he’s doing” in terms of virus response.
He alleged Biden would seek to implement “a draconian, unscientific lockdown” while also claiming he would delay the production of a vaccine and harm the economy of Florida and other states.
“When you’re the president you can’t lock yourself in a basement and say I’m not going to bother with the world,” Trump said of his decision to return to the campaign trail. “And it’s risky but you’ve got to get out.”
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, said he believes the president’s return to the campaign trail will be a “big shot in the arm for the campaign” when asked whether he still has the stamina to hold rallies at the same pace he has in the past.
“I’ve spoken with the President every single day since he entered Walter Reed. He is strong, he is energetic, he is raring to go,” Stepien said. “I think his campaign calendar reflects his health and well-being and enthusiasm to get back on the trail.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday that the large in-person rallies are ill-advised amid rising cases in the country.
“We know that is asking for trouble when you do that,” Fauci said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the health consequences of the rallies. “We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves.”