Trump maps return to campaign trail after White House says COVID-19 treatment complete
President expected to speak from the White House balcony on Saturday
U.S. President Donald Trump set out to get his campaign back on track Friday, a week after he was sidelined with the coronavirus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
As questions linger about his health, Trump began speaking directly to voters, on the radio, less than four weeks from election day, and he eyed a return to travel as soon as Monday. The president has not been seen in public — other than in White House-produced videos — since his return days ago from the military hospital where he received experimental treatments for the virus.
Trump is expected to speak from the White House balcony on Saturday, according to a White House official. He will also hold the first rally since his COVID-19 diagnosis in Florida on Monday, his campaign said Friday afternoon.
Trump on Friday dialled in to the show of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Despite public and private surveys showing him trailing Democrat Joe Biden, Trump predicted a greater victory in 2020 than four years ago.
While Trump said he believes he's no longer contagious, concerns about infection appeared to scuttle plans for next week's presidential debate.
"My voice is now perfect," he told Limbaugh.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says individuals can discontinue isolation 10 days after the onset of symptoms, which for Trump was Oct. 1, according to his doctors.
White House physician Sean Conley said that meant Trump, who has been surrounded by minimal staffing as he works out of the White House residence and the Oval Office, could return to holding events on Saturday.
Condition stable: White House doctor
He added that Trump was showing no evidence of his illness progressing or adverse reactions to the aggressive course of therapy prescribed by his doctors. While reports of reinfection are rare, the CDC recommends that even people who recover from COVID-19 continue to wear masks, stay distanced and follow other precautions. It was unclear if Trump, who refused mask-wearing in most settings, would abide by that guidance.
WATCH | Certain risk for Trump returning to campaign trail, says epidemiologist:
Biden has continued to campaign during Trump's illness. The former vice-president, who has sharply criticized Trump's handling of the pandemic, is beating the Republican in national polls, though that lead is narrower in some of the swing states that may determine the election's outcome.
In the interview with Limbaugh, Trump again credited the experimental antibody drug he received last week with speeding his recovery.
"I was not in the greatest of shape," he said. "A day later I was fine." He promised to expedite distribution of the drug to Americans in need, though that requires action by the Food and Drug Administration.
He speculated to Limbaugh that without the drug, "I might not have recovered at all."
There is no way to know how the drug affected his progression with the virus.
The Trump and Biden campaigns sparred on Thursday over a televised debate that had been planned for next week. Trump pulled out after the nonpartisan commission in charge said the Oct. 15 event would be held virtually with the candidates in separate locations because of health and safety concerns after Trump contracted COVID-19. Biden's campaign arranged a town hall-style event in Philadelphia instead.
Trump's White House and campaign have experienced an outbreak of the virus in the last week, with multiple top aides, including the president's press secretary and campaign manager, testing positive.
Trump and his staff have largely eschewed wearing masks, against the guidance of health professionals, and held rallies with thousands of people in indoor and outdoor venues despite recommendations against having events with large crowds.
Trump's health will remain in the spotlight even if he begins holding events again.