President Donald Trump is no longer contagious, nine days after being stopped in his tracks by Covid-19, his physician said in a statement released late on Saturday.
“I am happy to report that in addition to the President meeting CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) criteria for the safe discontinuation of isolation, this morning’s Covid PCR sample demonstrates, by currently recognised standards, he is no longer considered a transmission risk to others,” the President’s physician Sean Conley said.
Dr Conley, who has been accused of a lack of transparency with the public, said it had been 10 days since Mr Trump first began showing symptoms of coronavirus. The President was hospitalised one day later, on October 2.
Tests showed there was “no longer evidence of actively replicating virus”, and that Mr Trump’s viral load was “decreasing”, Dr Conley said – although he did not state that the President is now Covid-free.
The memo did not declare Mr Trump as testing negative for the virus. But sensitive lab tests – like the PCR test – detect the 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 by 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.
Mr Trump is fever-free and his symptoms have “improved”, Dr Conley said, adding that he would continue to monitor the President as he “returns to an active schedule”.
Mr Trump, who stayed in hospital for three days before returning to the White House, has been pushing to jump back on the campaign trail.
He trails his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, badly in the polls with less than a month before the election on November 3.
The memo followed Mr Trump’s first public appearance since returning to the White House after being treated for coronavirus. Hundreds of people gathered on Saturday afternoon on the South Lawn for Mr Trump’s address on his support for law enforcement from a White House balcony.
Mr Trump took off a mask moments after he emerged on the balcony to address the crowd on the lawn below, 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, Mr 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 what was, for all intents and purposes, a short version of his campaign speech despite the executive mansion setting.
Though billed as an official event, Mr Trump offered no policy proposals and instead delivered the usual attacks on Mr 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 Mr 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.
In either an act of defiance or simply tempting fate, officials organised the 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.
Mr 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 Mr 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 is no longer contagious.