Trump Ready for 1st Rally Since Contracting Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) -
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Trump is en route to Florida. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Just a week after his release from the hospital, President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Monday for the first time since contracting the coronavirus as he tries to stage a late comeback in the election’s final stretch.

Letter from President Trump’s doctor, Navy Cmdr. Scott Conley, stating that he tests and other data determine that he is no longer contagious.

Trump, whose doctor said Monday for the first time that he had received a negative test for COVID-19, faces a deficit in national and battleground state polling. He will be headlining a rally in Sanford, Florida — the first stop in a busy week that will include events in Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The robust schedule underscores the work Trump needs to do as he tries to win over voters just three weeks before Election Day.

After Air Force One lifted off from Joint Base Andrews, the president’s doctor released an update on his health that said Trump had tested negative for the virus — and had done so on consecutive days. His doctor, Navy Cmdr. Scott Conley, said that the tests, taking in conjunction with other data, including viral load, have led him to conclude that Trump was not contagious.

For days, the White House had sidestepped questions as to whether Trump had tested negative. Conley over the weekend said that the president met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for safely discontinuing isolation and that by “currently recognized standards,” Trump was no longer considered a transmission risk.

Florida is seen as critical to Trump’s reelection chances. Trump narrowly beat his 2016 rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, in the state by just over 112,000 votes. Some recent polls have suggested a close race in the state, while others have put Democrat Joe Biden ahead.

Trump’s decision to so quickly return to the campaign trail drew criticism from Biden and other Democrats.

“President Trump comes to Sanford today bringing nothing but reckless behavior, divisive rhetoric, and fear mongering,” Biden said in a statement. “But, equally dangerous is what he fails to bring: no plan to get this virus that has taken the lives of over 15,000 Floridians under control.”

Florida lawyer Dan Uhfelder, who has dressed as the Grim Reaper on beaches to highlight the coronavirus threat, filed a lawsuit Monday trying to stop Trump from holding his Sanford rally. It seeks to have the event classified as a public nuisance.

Trump, for his part, is eager to show the world that he is no longer sidelined by a virus that he has consistently played down.

Since his release from a military hospital after three days of around-the-clock care that included access to experimental antibody treatments unavailable to the public, Trump has used his personal experience to try to convince the public that he was right all along.

Trump held his first public event since his diagnosis on Saturday, addressing a crowd of hundreds of people on the South Lawn from a White House balcony. Appearing without a mask and with bandages still visible on his hands, likely from intravenous injections, Trump spoke for just 18 minutes — far less than his usual campaign rallies, which can last upwards of 90 minutes.