President Donald Trump immediately removed his face mask when he returned to the White House on Monday evening, despite testing positive for the coronavirus less than a week ago and amid an ongoing outbreak among staffers in the West Wing.
The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center just minutes earlier after a three-day stay in the hospital. He had been admitted on Friday just hours after he revealed that both he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the virus, a cluster that has since spread through his White House staff and congressional halls of power.
“I learned so much about coronavirus, and one thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it,” Trump declared in a video shortly after his arrival (more than 210,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S.). “I went, I didn’t feel so good, and two days ago, I could’ve left two days ago, I felt great, like better than I have in a long time. Don’t let it dominate, don’t let it take over your lives, don’t let that happen.”
Reporters noted that several photographers filming Trump’s return to the White House appeared to be near the president as he took off his mask.
Soon after, Trump released a video of his arrival on Twitter, which includes footage of him without a face covering as military members and White House aides look on.
The White House did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment. It’s unclear if Trump will wear a mask at the White House while he remains infectious (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that period could last between 10 and 20 days, depending on the severity of the individual case).
Questions remain about the severity of the president’s illness. His medical team has said repeatedly that he is doing “very well,” but outside experts have expressed concern amid reports that Trump’s blood oxygen levels fell below 95% at least twice since he contracted the virus.
Trump moved quickly to minimize his own infection, regularly tweeting that he is “feeling really good!” while releasing campaign-style videos from inside the hospital and driving outside for a photo op.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” the president posted on Monday shortly before departing Walter Reed. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Trump did acknowledge that he wasn’t feeling well, at least temporarily, in the days after his first positive test as he went to the hospital.
“As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it,” he said in the Twitter video.
He added: “I stood out front, I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK. And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.”
The nation’s top medical officials have continued to urge the use of face masks to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday that a White House event last month to celebrate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was the type of “dangerous situation” he’d long warned about. At least nine attendees have since tested positive for the virus.
Also on Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic competitor for the White House, called for the president to “listen to the scientists” and implement a nationwide mask mandate.
“I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists,” Biden said while speaking in Miami. “Support masks. Support a mask mandate nationwide. Require masks in every federal building and facility, and in interstate travel. Urge every governor and mayor to do the same. We know it saves lives.”
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