By John Whitesides
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he is fully recovered from COVID-19 and will not be a transmission risk to others, freeing him to return to holding big campaign rallies during the final weeks of the race for the White House.
Trump’s physician said on Saturday the president had taken a test showing he was no longer infectious and there was no evidence “of actively replicating virus,” but did not directly say whether Trump had tested negative.
“I passed the highest test, the highest standards, and I’m in great shape,” Trump, who spent three days in the hospital after revealing he had tested positive on Oct. 2, told Fox News Channel.
Trump said he was no longer on medications for the coronavirus. “I beat this crazy, horrible China virus,” he said, adding “it seems like I’m immune.”
The scientific evidence is unclear on how long people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies and are protected from a second infection.
“Now you have a president who doesn’t have to hide in the basement, like his opponent,” Trump said in a shot at Democratic rival Joe Biden, who he has mocked for wearing a mask and keeping a light, socially distanced campaign schedule ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Trump, who is trailing Biden in opinion polls, is eager to get back on the campaign trail after an absence of more than a week. He plans to travel to the key battleground state of Florida on Monday, followed by rallies in Pennsylvania and Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Trump addressed supporters from a White House balcony on Saturday afternoon, urging a crowd of hundreds of largely Black and Latino supporters to help get out the vote.
Standing alone at the event, Trump was not wearing a mask as he spoke. In the crowd, most were wearing masks but not following social distancing guidelines.
The president’s illness has put a focus on his handling of the pandemic, which has infected nearly 7.7 million people in the United States and killed more than 214,000. His administration has faced criticism for its lax approach to mask-wearing and social distancing in the White House. At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Opinion polls show Biden with a substantial lead nationally, although with a narrower advantage in some of the states that may decide the election outcome.
But with Trump’s management of the pandemic dominating the campaign, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Americans steadily losing confidence in how he has managed the health crisis – with his net approval on the issue hitting a new low.
Trump repeated past calls for states to reopen their economies even as the pandemic shows little sign of abating.
New cases of COVID-19 in the United States hit a two-month high on Friday.
Nationally, the United States is reporting on average 48,000 new cases a day and coronavirus hospitalizations in the Midwest hit a record for a sixth day in a row on Saturday, according to a Reuters analysis.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Jason Lange; Writing by Andrea Shalal and Frances Kerry; Editing Rosalba O’Brien and Lisa Shumaker