Trump returns to White House downplaying virus that hospitalized him at Walter Reed

More than a dozen White House officials have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, a steadily increasing total that grew again Monday to include press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. How the return of an infected president to such a setting could be managed safely was one of several questions left unanswered Monday as Trump’s medical team briefed reporters about his condition.

“We’ve worked with our infectious-disease experts to make some recommendations for how to keep everything safe down at the White House,” Trump’s doctor Sean Conley said after describing the president’s condition as improving, though he said Trump was “not out of the woods yet.”

Conley declined to describe what specific steps would be made to ensure a safe environment at a building that doubles as a personal residence and a government office while the president remains contagious, which could be for several more days at least.

“I wish I could go into that more, but I just can’t,” he said.

The transformation of the White House into a vector of a deadly pathogen has done little to change the approach of an administration that has been determined to downplay the coronavirus for months. Trump used his personal experience with the disease — which twice knocked his oxygen levels down significantly and required him to be hospitalized and injected with several drugs — to again play down its severity.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon, three days after he was transported to Walter Reed for treatment. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

His statement — seeming to again minimize the pandemic, something he has done consistently since it emerged as a threat earlier this year — immediately drew rebukes.

“ ‘Don’t be afraid’? I wish every American had access to the same health care you’re getting — but they don’t,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote on Twitter.

But Trump has given little indication that he plans to change his behavior if or when he is told by doctors that he can resume normal activities.

When he returned to the White House on Monday evening, the contagious president climbed up the stairs rather than use the usual ground-level entrance and posed for pictures. After a few seconds, he reached up with his right hand, took off his mask, put it in his pocket and resumed flashing thumbs up. He then turned and entered the building.

Trump spent Sunday and Monday discussing his campaign, the polls, advertising in key states and what Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is doing, according to people who spoke to the president. He began discussing with officials Sunday when he could return to the campaign trail — and how.

“Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls,” he tweeted Monday afternoon shortly before leaving the hospital.

Trump is trailing Biden in national and

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