BETHESDA, Md. — President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he received an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19.
He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — and then he entered the White House without a protective mask.
Trump's message alarmed infectious disease experts and suggested the president's own illness had not caused him to rethink his often-cavalier attitude toward the disease, which has also infected the first lady and several White House aides, including new cases revealed on Monday.
Landing at the White House on Marine One, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, "I feel good." He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.
The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his doctor, Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, said earlier Monday that the president remains contagious and would not be fully "out of the woods" for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital. Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the U.S. government is still being uncovered.
Still, just a month before the election and anxious to project strength, Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital, "Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!" And in case anyone missed his don't-worry message earlier, he rushed out a new video from the White House.
"Don't be afraid of it," Trump said of the virus. "You're going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines." His remarks were strong, but he was taking deeper breaths than usual as he delivered them.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden capitalized on having the campaign trail largely to himself by hitting critical swing states and investing in longtime Republican bastions that he hopes might expand his path to victory.
The Democratic presidential nominee made his second trip to Florida in a little over two weeks on Monday. His visit to Miami was designed to encroach on some of Trump's turf, even swinging through Little Havana, a typically conservative area known for its staunch opposition to the communist government that Fidel Castro installed in Cuba. He'll follow up with a trip this week to Arizona, which hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.
Trump's nonchalant message about not fearing the virus comes as his own administration encourages Americans to be careful and take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease as cases continue to spike across the country. For more than eight months, Trump's efforts to play down the threat of the virus in hopes of propping up the economy ahead of the election have drawn bipartisan criticism.
"We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population," Dr. David Nace of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said of Trump's comment.
"Most of the people aren't so lucky as the president," with an in-house medical unit and access to experimental treatments, added Nace, an expert on infections in older adults.
"It's an unconscionable message," agreed Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread."
Likewise, Biden, who spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Trump last week, said during an NBC town hall Monday night that he was glad Trump seemed to be recovering well, "but there's a lot to be concerned about — 210,000 people have died. I hope no one walks away with the message that it's not a problem."
Biden, who tested negative for the virus on Sunday, said in an interview with WPLG Local 10 News in Miami: "I saw a tweet he did, they showed me, he said 'Don't let COVID control your life.' Tell that to all the families that lost someone."
There was pushback from a prominent Trump political supporter as well.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told the Houston Chronicle editorial board that Trump "let his guard down" in his effort to show that the country was moving beyond the virus and had created "confusion" about how to stay safe.
Dr. Conley said that because of Trump's unusual level of treatment so early after discovery of his illness he was in "uncharted territory." But the doctor also was upbeat at an afternoon briefing and said the president could resume his normal schedule once "there is no evidence of live virus still present."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.
Trump's arrival back at the White House raised new questions about how the administration was going to protect other officials from a disease that remains rampant in the president's body. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she had tested positive for the virus Monday morning and was entering quarantine.
IOWA CITY (AP) — The children of a Tyson Foods worker who died of the coronavirus in April have filed a lawsuit claiming his plant took few safety precautions before he and others became infected in Iowa’s first major outbreak.
Pedro Cano, 51, worked on the kill floor elbow-to-elbow with others at Tyson’s pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, according to the lawsuit recently filed in Johnson County.
Cano developed COVID-19 symptoms April 2, four days before Tyson announced that two dozen workers had tested positive and that production would be suspended. The lawsuit says Cano was hospitalized April 10 and died April 14. The plant resumed production with new safety measures a week after his death.
Cano’s three adult children filed the wrongful death lawsuit, which claims their father worked less than six feet away from others with no barriers in between and wasn’t given a mask by Tyson.
The lawsuit alleges Tyson early on took no steps to require social distancing in changing areas, break rooms and other locations, did not screen sick employees and didn’t implement appropriate sanitizing practices. It claims gross negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation and seeks unspecified damages.
Tyson did not respond directly to the lawsuit’s claims but said Monday it formed a coronavirus task force in January, relaxed its attendance policy, encouraged ill workers to stay home, and was one of the first companies to check workers’ temperatures.
Protective measures at its plants meet or exceed federal guidelines, and less than 0.5% of its U.S. workforce is actively infected, Tyson said.
The families of four deceased workers at Tyson’s pork plant in Waterloo have filed similar lawsuits.
WATERLOO — City Council members unanimously approved Monday an extension for Tyson to hire additional workers, a responsibility outlined in the company’s contract with Iowa Economic Development Authority to gain tax incentives.
The Tyson pork processing plant originally was required to create 245 additional full-time permanent jobs by Sept. 30. The company will now have until May 31 to make the hires, according to the contract amendment. The contract is part of the IDEA High Quality Jobs program, and it gives Tyson more than $2.3 million in state tax incentives.
The incentives include more than $396,000 in sales, service and tax refunds, as well as a $2 million investment tax credit, according to the contract. The IEDA required a local match for Tyson’s expansion, leading Waterloo City Council members in September 2017 to unanimously approve five years of graduated tax abatements for Tyson’s facility on North Elk Run Road.
“Because of COVID, they are behind schedule in hiring people,” said Noel Anderson, planning and zoning director.
The contract requires Tyson to pay the workers at least $17.29 an hour, joining the existing 642 workers who are paid at or above that wage. The plant employs nearly 2,900 workers total, the contract said. Tyson must offer benefits packages for the full-time employees.
The new employees will get wage increases up to $20.75 per hour by May 31, 2023, according to the contract amendment. The original contract called for the raises to be complete by Sept. 30, 2022.
City Council member Jonathan Grieder said the contract amendment left him in a “quandary” at Monday’s meeting.
“On one hand, I support high-paying wages; It’s what I ran on,” Grieder said. “On the other hand, we’ve had some concerns with Tyson earlier this year related to the pandemic. ... I don’t want this to be read as a justification for behavior, but rather that the workers who work there deserve to be paid a living wage.”
The Waterloo site closed in April after more than 1,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19, some dying from the virus. Tyson resumed production at its Waterloo plant in May with “enhanced safety precautions,” the company said in a news release.
Tyson’s participation in the High Quality Jobs program aligns with Waterloo’s strategic plan. It calls for the city to encourage “livable wage” thresholds and champion incentives to support existing business expansions.
The company’s Waterloo plant announced an expansion in recent years that included the construction of a 56,400-square-foot warehouse and more production lines.
CEDAR FALLS — The University of Northern Iowa has dropped to zero students isolating in the dormitories for positive COVID-19 tests.
The department of residence first reported the drop on UNI’s online COVID-19 dashboard Friday. A Monday update also included no one in isolation on campus.
A week earlier, the department reported five students in isolation. Students are asked to isolate a minimum of 10 days after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Seven students were in quarantine on campus Monday, one up from Friday and down from 20 a week ago. Students quarantine away from others for 14 days if they might have been exposed to the virus. Quarantine is no longer required by the Iowa Department of Public Health if both people were consistently and correctly wearing face coverings during the exposure.
Meanwhile, UNI’s student health center reported seven positive cases of COVID-19 during the past week. Those can include students and employees.
A total of 80 tests were administered Sept. 28-Oct. 4, for a positivity rate of 8.75%. That brings the number of tests done by the center since Aug. 17 to 918, 170 of which were positive.
For the same week, there were 16 self-reported new cases of COVID-19, some of which may duplicate the health center numbers. One of the self-reported cases was an employee, the others were students. There have been a total of 94 self-reported cases since Sept. 1, three of them employees.
Wartburg College in Waverly reported three positive or inconclusive cases among students and employees as of Monday through its online dashboard. The college reports the total number of positive cases daily Monday through Friday. The number of positive cases started at eight Sept. 28 and dropped through the week to four on Oct. 2.
As of Monday, three people were in isolation and 13 were in quarantine. The campus infection rate was 0.14%. That is based on the number of people on campus testing positive out of all Wartburg students and employees.
Iowa public health officials reported 356 new confirmed coronavirus cases and seven deaths on Monday, significantly lower than the daily average last week of more than 1,000 new cases and likely a reflection of lower testing over the weekend.
Testing during Monday through Friday last week averaged 12,000 tests a day, and positive tests averaged just over 1,000 a day. State data shows just over 2,200 tests on Saturday and around 1,200 on Sunday.
The state now has 92,901 confirmed positive cases since March and 1,388 deaths.
Collection of Photos from Northern Iowa’s first fall football practice