WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump remained out of sight for a second day Wednesday recovering from COVID-19, but he returned to work in the Oval Office and made his presence known on social media as he tweeted broadsides against Democrats, floated false disease figures and pushed lawmakers to take up piecemeal economic aid proposals after nixing negotiations on a broader assistance package.
It was Trump’s first visit to the Oval Office since being discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. While there he was being briefed on Hurricane Delta, which is bearing down on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and on economic stimulus prospects.
Trump’s doctor reported Wednesday that the president continued to make progress in his recovery.
Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said Trump had declared, “I feel great!”
Conley added in a memo that Trump had been symptom-free for over 24 hours, and that his oxygen saturation level and respiratory rate were normal. The memo also said a blood test Monday showed Trump had coronavirus antibodies, substances that fight infection, but he had been given an experimental drug on Friday containing these.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. says it’s not possible for this type of blood test to distinguish between antibodies Trump’s body may be making and those supplied by the company’s drug. Most likely, the ones detected in the Monday test are from the drug, the company said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says individuals can discontinue isolation 10 days after symptom onset. While reports of reinfection are rare, the CDC recommends that even people who recover from COVID-19 continue to wear a mask, stay distanced and follow other precautions.
Aides were instructed to take extensive precautions to prevent themselves from catching the coronavirus from the president. And while aides say he is working, White House officials have offered scant details of what he’s up to beyond noting that he’s spoken with Republican leadership and worked with senior advisers in recent days.
White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern said Trump “wants to speak to the American people and he will do so soon.” But Morgenstern said he did not have specific details about when Trump may make a public appearance.
Amidst the national public health crisis, a personal one, and warning flares from leading economists that the virus-scarred economy badly needs stimulus, Trump pushed out more than four dozen tweets by midday praising supporters and eviscerating his opponents.
He again publicly played down the virus on Twitter after his return from a three-day hospitalization, though even more aides tested positive, including one of his closest advisers, Stephen Miller. All told, more than a dozen White House staffers have tested positive.
Even as the White House has become a ghost complex this week because of the disease, Trump pushed out video of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaking of her decision to resist COVID-19 restrictions in her state and thanked a supporter who tweeted she “would wade though a sea of COVID infested water to vote for President Trump on November 3rd.”
In one significant national coronavirus action, Trump declared Tuesday there would be no action before the election on economic-stimulus legislation — not long after the Federal Reserve chairman said such help was essential for recovery with the nation reeling from the human and economic cost of the pandemic. Stocks fell on the White House news, but were recovering Wednesday after he floated the idea of piecemeal aid. Trump later tweeted his support for a range of stimulus proposals that appear to be a political non-starter before Election Day.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke briefly on Wednesday morning about the chances for a stand-alone airline rescue, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted. Pelosi directed Mnuchin to a measure she had attempted to pass on Friday on short notice under fast-track procedures, but only after Democrats made a number of changes Republicans did not like.
Meanwhile, Trump was grappling with next political steps exactly four weeks from Election Day. Anxious to project strength, Trump, who is still contagious with the virus, tweeted Tuesday that he was planning to attend next week’s debate with Democrat Joe Biden in Miami.
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive. Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” he tweeted. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
In fact, COVID-19 has already proven to be a more potent killer, particularly among older populations, than seasonal flu, and has shown indications of having long-term impacts on the health of younger people it infects. The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in far fewer yearly deaths than Trump said — between 12,000 and 61,000 annually since 2010.
Trump was working out of makeshift office space on the ground floor of the White House residence, in close proximity to the White House Medical Unit’s office suite, with only a few aides granted a face-to-face audience. The West Wing was largely vacant, as a number of Trump’s aides were either sick or quarantining after exposure to people infected with the virus, or otherwise working remotely as a precaution.
First lady Melania Trump was isolating upstairs in the White House.
Associated Press writers Maryilynn Marchione in Milwaukee, Lauran Neergaard and Jonathan Lemire in Washington, and Bill Barrow in Wilmington, Delaware, contributed to this report.