WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's doctor said Saturday the president is no longer at risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
In a memo, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley says Trump meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for safely discontinuing isolation and that by "currently recognized standards" he is no longer considered a transmission risk.
The memo did not declare Trump had tested negative for the virus. But sensitive lab tests — like the PCR test — detect virus in swab samples taken from the nose and throat. Dr. William Morice, who oversees laboratories at the Mayo Clinic, said earlier this week that using the PCR tests, the president’s medical team could hypothetically measure and track the amount of virus in samples over time and watch the viral load go down.
Some medical experts had been skeptical that Trump could be declared free of the risk of transmitting the virus so early in the course of his illness.
The memo follows Trump's first public appearance since returning to the White House after being treated for the coronavirus. Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon on the South Lawn for a Trump address on his support for law enforcement from a White House balcony.
Trump took off a mask moments after he emerged on the balcony to address the crowd, his first step back onto the public stage with just more than three weeks to go until Election Day. He flouted, once more, the safety recommendations of his own government just days after acknowledging that he was on the brink of "bad things" from the virus and claiming that his bout with the illness brought him a better understanding of it.
His return was a brief one. With bandages visible on his hands, likely from an intravenous injection, Trump spoke for 18 minutes, far less than at his normal hour-plus rallies. He appeared healthy, if perhaps a little hoarse, as he delivered his speech.
Though billed as an official event, Trump offered no policy proposals and instead delivered the usual attacks on Democratic challenger Joe Biden while praising law enforcement to a crowd of several hundred, most of whom wore masks while few adhered to social distancing guidelines.
"I'm feeling great," said Trump, who said he was thankful for their good wishes and prayers as he recovered. He then declared that the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans, was "disappearing" even though he is still recovering from the virus.
Meanwhile, with the backdrop of a union facility in a key battleground county of Pennsylvania, Biden on Saturday blistered Trump as only pretending to care about the working-class voters who helped flip the Rust Belt to the Republican column four years ago.
“Anyone who actually does an honest day’s work sees him and his promises for what they are,” Biden told a masked, socially distanced crowd at a training facility for plumbers and other tradespeople.
Biden has hammered Trump on the economy in recent weeks, from sweeping indictments of how the president has downplayed the novel coronavirus and its economic fallout to a withering personal contrast between Biden’s middle-class upbringing with that of the multimillionaire's son and self-proclaimed billionaire.
Nowhere could Biden’s arguments prove more decisive than in Erie County. Long a Democratic bastion, it was among the most populous counties in the nation to flip from the Democratic column to Republicans in 2016.
Trump outpaced Democrat Hillary Clinton by almost 12,000 votes, four years after President Barack Obama led Republican Mitt Romney by 19,000 votes. That accounted for a net 31,000-vote swing in a state that Trump won by about 44,000 votes. Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee to carry Erie since President Ronald Reagan's landslide reelection in 1984 and the first GOP standard-bearer to win Pennsylvania since George Bush's election in 1988.
Erie County rebounded strongly to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.
In either an act of defiance or simply tempting fate, Trump officials organized the White House crowd just steps from the Rose Garden, where exactly two weeks ago the president held another large gathering to formally announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. That event is now being eyed as a possible COVID-19 superspreader as more than two dozen people in attendance have contracted the virus.
Trump had hoped to hold campaign rallies this weekend but settled for the White House event. But even as his health remained unclear, he planned to ramp up his travel with a rally in Florida on Monday, followed by trips to Pennsylvania and Iowa on subsequent days. It was not clear if Trump posed a risk to those he would fly with on Air Force One or encounter at the rally sites.
Before the speech, White House officials said they had no information to release on whether the president was tested for COVID-19, meaning he made his first public appearance without the White House verifying that he's no longer contagious.
Security was stepped up around the White House before the event, which was called a "peaceful protest for law & order" and predominantly attended by Black and Latino supporters.
Biden's campaign said he again tested negative on Saturday for COVID-19. Biden was potentially exposed to the coronavirus during his Sept. 29 debate with Trump, who announced his positive diagnosis barely 48 hours after the debate.