As Trump convalesced out of sight in the White House on Tuesday, the administration defended the protections it has put in place to protect the staff working there to treat and support him. Trump played down the virus on Twitter after his return from a three-day hospitalization, though more aides tested positive, including one of his closest advisers, Stephen Miller.
In one significant national coronavirus action, Trump declared there would be no action before the election on economic-stimulus legislation — an announcement that came not long after the Federal Reserve chairman said such help was essential for recovery from the human and economic cost of the pandemic.
As for Trump’s own recovery, his doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said in a letter that the president had a “restful” Monday night at the White House and “reports no symptoms.”
Meanwhile, Trump grappled with next political steps exactly four weeks from Election Day. The president tweeted Tuesday that he was planning to attend next week’s debate with Democrat Joe Biden in Miami and “It will be great!”
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
Elsewhere in the government, the scope of the outbreak was still being uncovered. On Tuesday, the nation’s top military leaders including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and the vice chairman, Gen. John Hyten, were in quarantine after exposure to Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard.
It was not known how Ray contracted the virus, but he attended an event for military families at the White House on Sept. 27. The Coast Guard said in a statement that Ray felt mild symptoms over the weekend and was tested on Monday.
Also testing positive Tuesday was Miller, a top policy adviser and Trump speechwriter, who has been an architect of the president’s restrictive immigration measures. Miller’s wife, Katie Miller, who serves as communications director to Vice President Mike Pence, had the virus earlier this year. She had been in Salt Lake City with Pence where he is preparing to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, but she left as soon as she found out about her husband’s diagnosis, officials said. She tested negative on Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday, “When I saw him on the balcony of the White House, taking off his mask, I couldn’t help but think that he sent the wrong signal, given that he’s infected with COVID-19 and that there are many people in his immediate circle who have the virus,.”
Trump suggested that the virus was akin to the seasonal flu.
“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” he tweeted. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
Trump was working out of makeshift office space on the ground floor of the White House residence, in close proximity to the White House Medical Unit’s office suite, with only a few aides granted a face-to-face audience. The West Wing was largely vacant.
First lady Melania Trump isolated upstairs in the White House. On Tuesday, her office released a memo outlining extensive health and safety precautions that have been put in place in the executive residence, including adopting hospital-grade disinfection policies, encouraging “maximum teleworking” and installing additional sanitization and filtration systems. Residence staff in direct contact with the first family are tested daily and support staff are tested every 48 hours. And since the president and Mrs. Trump tested positive, staff have been wearing ”full PPE.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.