US President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday evening after three days of treatment for Covid-19 at a military hospital, and officials plan to significantly restrict physical access to him as he continues his recovery.
The White House is taking every precaution necessary to protect not only him and the first family, but every staff member working on the complex, spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement on Monday night. He said that anyone who comes close to Trump would wear personal protective equipment.
Trump only said “thank you very much” to those gathered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before boarding the presidential helicopter for his return flight to the White House. Back at the residence, he walked up the South Portico stairs to the balcony, where he removed his mask, flashed thumbs-up with both hands and saluted for several seconds.
He did not appear to put his mask back on before walking into the residence. The show of defiance toward both the virus and public health measures to combat its spread was in keeping with the President’s tone earlier when he announced he would leave the Bethesda, Maryland, hospital.
In a video released shortly afterward, Trump said of the virus: “Don’t let it dominate you.”
“I knew there’s danger to it. But I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. I know there’s a risk. I know there’s a danger. But that’s OK. And now I’m better. Maybe I’m immune, I don’t know,” he said.
“Get out there, be careful,” Trump added. “The vaccines are coming momentarily.”
The President has received medical care unavailable to most people, including three powerful medicines and an airlift to and from the hospital. The virus has infected more than 7.4 million Americans and has killed more than 2,10,000 since February, including 475 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Trump will continue to get round-the-clock medical attention from his doctor and other health personnel at the White House, Deere said.
The President’s aides hope to keep him at the White House residence and away from the Oval Office but are uncertain how long that will last, according to people familiar with the matter. “ We’ll be back on the campaign trail soon!!!” Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital.
“Over the past 24 hours, the President has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all hospital discharge criteria,” White House physician Sean Conley said at a briefing after Trump’s announcement.
Trump may not entirely be out of the woods but the rest of his care can safely be performed at the White House, Conley said.
The President received a fourth dose of an antiviral drug, Remdesivir, at Walter Reed before he was discharged and will get a fifth dose at the White House, his medical team said.
“He’s returning to a facility, the White House medical unit, that’s staffed 24X7,” Conley said. “Every day a patient stays in the hospital unnecessarily is a risk to themselves.”
Conley said coronavirus patients can stop shedding the virus in as few as five days after diagnosis, and that Trump would be monitored to determine when he is no longer infectious. The White House plans for Trump to stay in the residence for a few days before returning to normal, one of the people familiar with the matter said.