Trump is symptom-free and stable, says doctor

Published October 8, 2020
US President Donald Trump poses on the Truman Balcony of the White House after returning from being hospitalised at Walter Reed Medical Center for coronavirus treatment, in Washington, US on  Oct 5, 2020. — Reuters/File
US President Donald Trump poses on the Truman Balcony of the White House after returning from being hospitalised at Walter Reed Medical Center for coronavirus treatment, in Washington, US on Oct 5, 2020. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s doctor said on Wednesday the president has had no Covid-19 symptoms for the past 24 hours, as the Republican seeks ways to get back to a normal working schedule and revive his struggling re-election bid with four weeks left until US Election Day.

White House physician Sean Conley said in a statement that Trump has been fever-free for more than four days and has not needed or received any supplemental oxygen since his initial hospitalisation, which began on Friday.

Since he returned to the White House in a dramatic display before cameras on Monday, Trump has not been seen in public or on video, although his Twitter account has been busy sending messages attacking opponents and downplaying the coronavirus pandemic.

Conley said Trump’s physical exam and vital signs “all remain stable and in normal range.” Despite his illness, Trump has been looking for options on how to get his election message out and cut into Democrat Joe Biden’s lead in battleground states where the Nov 3 election will be decided, advisers said.

They said they had been discussing Trump delivering a national address, while a speech to senior voters is being contemplated for Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence’s debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City will take center stage of the campaign on Wednesday evening.

Aides say Trump is impatient to get back on the campaign trail and insistent on going ahead with the next debate on Oct 15 in Miami, but Biden said on Tuesday he will not participate if Trump is not virus-free.

The White House’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said on Wednesday that Trump was eager to get back to work in the Oval Office. He has been working from a makeshift space in his residence in the White House since returning from hospital.

“He wanted to go to the Oval yesterday. If he decides to go the Oval we’ve got safety protocols there,” Meadows told reporters, adding there would be adequate personal protective equipment and ventilation.

Any political boost Trump could get from a fresh injection of stimulus money into Americans’ pockets appears to be out of reach after he abruptly ended negotiations with Democrats on Tuesday, with both sides far apart on how much money to devote to a deal.

Both Biden and the top Democrat in the US Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accused Trump of abandoning needy Americans. Republican Senator Susan Collins, facing a tough re-election bid in her home state of Maine, called Trump’s move a “huge mistake.” “The president turned his back on you,” Biden said in a Twitter post.

With layoffs in key industries mounting by the day and threatening the fragile recovery, Trump late on Tuesday urged Congress to quickly pass $25 billion in funding for passenger airlines, $135 billion for small businesses and provide $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans. But White House officials on Wednesday downplayed the likelihood of any kind of stimulus being passed before the election.

Trump’s drive to get Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court by the Republican-controlled Senate before the election also may be in doubt, since three Republican senators have been infected with the coronavirus and may not be able to vote.

A wave of infections at the White House among Trump’s top lieutenants and press office aides has left the West Wing struggling to find its footing. The latest infection came on Tuesday when immigration hawk and chief speechwriter Stephen Miller put out word he had tested positive.

ABC News said its count of cases related to the White House was now 23, including Trump and his wife, Melania.

Trump has attempted to use his coronavirus infection to his political advantage, making a prime-time exit from Walter Reed military hospital on Monday and whipping off his face mask before the cameras on his return to the White House. He depicted himself as a man who vanquished the disease and emerged stronger, telling Americans: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” But Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 people in the United States, has been met with skepticism from many Americans.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted Oct. 2-6, found that 38pc of adults approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus — his lowest level of approval in the weekly survey since a similar one conducted Sept. 3-8 while 56pc said they disapprove.

The poll found that 79pc of US adults, including 94pc of registered Democrats and 70pc of registered Republicans, said they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned personally about the spread of the virus.

Advisers say Trump wanted to be talking about other issues instead of the virus by this stage of the campaign, to put pressure on Biden. Opinion polls show Trump down double digits, and Biden with sizeable leads in many swing states.

Trump had been expected to go on tour this week through Western states to raise millions of dollars for a campaign facing a deficit to Biden’s well-funded effort.

One adviser noted that almost exactly four years ago in 2016, Trump’s campaign was knocked off the rails by release of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which he boasted about groping women. He went on to beat the odds and win the election.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2020

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