8 Oct 2020

Trump free of Covid symptoms for 24 hours, doctor says

9:58 am on 8 October 2020

US President Donald Trump has entered the White House Oval Office for the first time since returning earlier this week from a military hospital where he was being treated for Covid-19, a White House spokesman said.

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event commemorating the repatriation of Native American remains and artifacts from Finland in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 17, 2020.

Donald Trump is anxious to resume a normal working schedule after being diagnosed with Covid-19. (file pic) Photo: AFP

"Was just briefed on Hurricane Delta, and spoke with @GovAbbott of Texas and @LouisianaGov John Bel Edwards," Trump said in a tweet a short while later.

Hurricane Delta is expected to gather strength and hit the Gulf of Mexico later in the day.

Trump's doctor said the president has had no Covid-19 symptoms for the past 24 hours, as the Republican seeks ways to get back to a normal working schedule and revive his struggling re-election bid with four weeks left until US Election Day.

White House physician Sean Conley said in a statement that Trump has been fever-free for more than four days and has not needed or received any supplemental oxygen since his initial hospitalisation, which began on Saturday (NZ time).

Conley said Trump's physical exam and vital signs "all remain stable and in normal range".

White House physician Sean Conley gives an update on the condition of US President Donald Trump, on October 3, 2020, at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Donald Trump's vital signs are stable and normal, according to Dr Sean Conley. Photo: AFP

Tests from Tuesday showed Trump had evidence of coronavirus antibodies, which are protective against the infection, the doctor said. A spokeswoman for Regeneron, which makes an experimental antibody treatment given to Trump last week, said the detected antibodies are likely from that treatment.

Trump has been in a defiant mood since returning from hospital, angling to work in the Oval Office rather than in the Residence, as well as pushing for an address to the nation and a resumption of campaign activity.

Since he returned to the White House in a dramatic display before cameras on Tuesday, Trump has not been seen in public or on video, although his Twitter account has been busy sending messages attacking opponents and downplaying the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite his illness, Trump has been looking for ways to get his election message out and cut into Democrat Joe Biden's lead in battleground states where the 3 November election will be decided, advisers said.

Vice President Mike Pence's debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City will take centre stage of the campaign later today.

The debate is one of the most eagerly anticipated in years.

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Mike Pence and Kamala Harris Photo: AFP

Aides say Trump is impatient to get back on the campaign trail and insistent on going ahead with the next debate on 15 October in Miami, but Biden said yesterday he will not participate if Trump is not virus-free.

The White House's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said that Trump was eager to get back to work in the Oval Office. He has been working from a makeshift space in his residence in the White House since returning from hospital.

Meadows told reporters there would be adequate personal protective equipment and ventilation for other staff.

Any political boost Trump could get from a fresh injection of stimulus money into Americans' pockets appears to be out of reach after he abruptly ended negotiations with Democrats yesterday, with both sides far apart on how much money to devote to a deal.

Both Biden and the top Democrat in the US Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accused Trump of abandoning needy Americans. Republican Senator Susan Collins, facing a tough re-election bid in her home state of Maine, called Trump's move a "huge mistake".

"The president turned his back on you," Biden said in a Twitter post.

With layoffs in key industries mounting by the day and threatening the fragile recovery, Trump has urged Congress to quickly pass $US25 billion ($NZ38b) in funding for passenger airlines, $135b for small businesses and provide $1200 stimulus checks for Americans.

But White House officials have downplayed the likelihood of any kind of stimulus being passed before the election.

Trump's drive to get Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court by the Republican-controlled Senate before the election also may be in doubt, since three Republican senators have been infected with the coronavirus and may not be able to vote.

Drive for political advantage

A wave of infections at the White House among Trump's top lieutenants and press office aides has left the West Wing struggling to find its footing. ABC News said its count of cases related to the White House was now 23, including Trump and his wife, Melania.

Trump has attempted to use his coronavirus infection to his political advantage, making a prime-time exit from Walter Reed military hospital on Monday and whipping off his face mask before the cameras on his return to the White House.

He depicted himself as a man who vanquished the disease and emerged stronger, telling Americans: "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life."

But Trump's handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 people in the United States, has been met with scepticism from many Americans.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted 2-6 October, found that 38 percent of adults approved of Trump's handling of the coronavirus, while 56 percent said they disapproved.

The poll found that 79 percent of US adults, including 94 percent of registered Democrats and 70 percent of registered Republicans, said they are "very" or "somewhat" concerned personally about the spread of the virus.

Advisers say Trump wanted to be talking about other issues instead of the virus by this stage of the campaign, to put pressure on Biden. Opinion polls show Trump down double digits, and Biden with sizeable leads in many swing states.

Covid-19 testing center staff speak to people waiting in line in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park on October 6, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

People wait for Covid-19 tests in Brooklyn, New York. Photo: AFP

Trump had been expected to go on tour this week through Western states to raise millions of dollars for a campaign facing a deficit to Biden's well-funded effort.

One adviser noted that almost exactly four years ago in 2016, Trump's campaign was knocked off the rails by release of an "Access Hollywood" tape in which he boasted about groping women. He went on to beat the odds and win the election.

"He's the real comeback kid and if anybody can come back from something it's him," the adviser said.

- Reuters

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