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Trump downplays Covid-19 on return to White House as Biden says wearing a mask should be seen as ‘patriotic’

Good morning, NBC News readers.

President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday evening, downplaying the virus that put him in the hospital for three nights and has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

Here’s what we’re watching this Tuesday morning.


‘Maybe I’m immune’ to Covid-19, Trump says in video after return to White House

President Trump returned to the White House on Monday evening after being treated for Covid-19 for three days at Walter Reed Medical Center — and immediately took off his mask to pose for pictures before walking inside.

The highly choreographed moment on the Truman Balcony came hours after Trump tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Doctors, scientists and public health experts were outraged by the president’s comments downplaying the virus that has killed more than 211,000 people in the United States, according to NBC News latest count.

And the majority of Americans — 65 percent — are still very much afraid of the virus and are worried about someone in their family being exposed to it, according to the latest NBC News| SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.

But the president was more interested in projecting an optimistic and confident image of a man who’d beaten the virus.

“I learned so much about the coronavirus,” he said in one of two campaign videos he filmed on his arrival back at the White House. He described the top-of-the-line treatment he’d received as proof the virus could be contained. “Now I’m better. Maybe I’m immune. I don’t know,” Trump said.

Earlier in the day Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said that the president had improved enough to go back to the White House, but added the 74-year-old “may not be entirely out of the woods yet.”

Some medical experts questioned Trump’s speedy exit from the hospital, saying the first seven to 10 days of the illness are a critical period when things can quickly take a turn for the worse.

And despite Trump’s jubilant return to the White House, the mood inside the West Wing was less triumphant as Covid-19 infections continue to spread among staffers, NBC News’ Shannon Pettypiece reports.

“Folks are dropping like flies over here,” a White House official said. “S— is very crazy.”

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was the latest in a string of Trump administration aides and allies who have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days. The White House has become a center for a coronavirus outbreak affecting low-level aides to senators and some of Trump’s closest advisers, like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is in a hospital.

Follow our live blog for the latest updates on Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.


Biden says wearing masks should be seen as a ‘patriotic responsibility’

Meantime, in a town hall with NBC News’ Lester Holt in Miami on Monday night, Democratic nominee Joe Biden said that Trump bears some responsibility for contracting Covid-19.

“Look, anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter, I think is responsible for what happens to them,” said Biden.

The former vice president said that wearing masks and social distancing should be seen as a patriotic duty and that “masks matter.”

“All the tough guys say, ‘I’m not wearing a mask, I’m not afraid.’ Well, be afraid for your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, your neighbor, your co-worker. That’s who you are protecting having this mask on.”


Trio win Nobel Prize for physics for groundbreaking black hole discoveries

Scientists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday for their groundbreaking discoveries about black holes.

Their work has helped reveal “the darkest secrets of the universe,” said Secretary-General Göran K. Hansson for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Ghez, an American astronomer, is the fourth woman to ever win the prize in physics.

“I hope I can inspire other young women into the field,” Ghez told a news conference by phone.

Prizes in chemistry, literature, peace and economics will be announced over the next week.

Scientists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday for discoveries about black holes in the galaxy.

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Plus


THINK about it

Trump tweeting “don’t be afraid of Covid” is a betrayal of my father’s memory, co-founder of Marked by COVID Kristin Urquiza writes in an opinion piece.


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Quote of the day

“I think in his desire to try to demonstrate that we are somehow coming out of this and that the danger is not still with us — I think he got out over his skis and, frankly, I think it’s a lesson to all of us that we need to exercise self-discipline.”

— Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said to The Houston Chronicle’s editorial board about Trump’s attitude toward the coronavirus.


One fun thing

Researchers off the coast of Nova Scotia found a nearly 2-ton great white shark believed to be roughly 50 years old, dubbing her the “Queen of the Ocean.”

The shark, named Nukumi by researchers, is more than 17 feet long and weighed in at 3,541 pounds.

“When you look at all the healed-over scars and blotches and things that are on her skin, you’re really looking at the story of her life and it makes you feel really insignificant,” said Chris Fischer, head of OCEARCH, the non-profit marine research organization that found the huge shark.

Nukumi is the largest great white shark the U.S. research team Ocearch has tagged in its northwest Atlantic white shark study to date.Chris Ross / Ocearch

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Thanks, Petra

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