WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump tweeted thanks to his supporters on Sunday from the hospital where he is being treated for COVID-19, after a series of contradictory messages from the White House caused widespread confusion about his health.
Trump, who was taken to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday, released a four-minute video on Saturday in which he said the “real test” of his condition will come over the next few days.
“Over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test, so we’ll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days,” Trump said into the camera, looking tired and wearing a jacket and open-necked shirt.
Trump’s illness has upended the campaign ahead of the November presidential election and cast a spotlight on the president’s handling of the pandemic. The Republican president is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Sunday found that Biden had opened a 10 point lead over Trump nationally, slightly wider than it has been for the past two months. Some 65% of Americans said Trump likely would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously — a view that half of registered Republicans polled supported. Some 55% said they did not believe Trump had been telling the truth about the virus.
Trump’s campaign vowed that Vice President Mike Pence, who would assume the presidency if Trump were unable to carry out his duties, would have an “aggressive” campaign schedule this week, as would Trump’s three oldest children.
“We can’t stay in our basement or shut down the economy indefinitely. We have to take it head-on,” Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Trump has repeatedly played down the threat of the pandemic, even as it has killed more than 208,000 Americans and hammered the US economy.
In an early morning tweet on Sunday, Trump said “Thank you so much!” – referring to supporters who gathered on Saturday night outside the Walter Reed hospital waving Trump 2020 flags.
With Trump off the campaign trail indefinitely, his campaign announced “Operation MAGA,” based on his slogan “Make America Great Again,” which will see high-profile allies including Pence and Trump’s elder sons, Donald Jr and Eric, take over in-person campaigning this week.
Pence, who tested negative on Friday, is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday.
Biden, who largely avoided direct criticism of Trump during a campaign trip to Michigan on Friday, took a more aggressive tone on Saturday while speaking to a transit workers’ union, even as he wished the president well.
“I’m in a little bit of a spot here, because I don’t want to be attacking the president and the first lady now,” Biden said, adding he hoped Trump and his wife Melania, who also has the illness, make a full recovery.
But he quickly turned to Trump’s response to the pandemic, calling it “unconscionable” and blasting Trump’s comment in an interview this summer that “it is what it is” when asked about the death toll.
Biden, who tested negative on Friday, told reporters he would next be tested on Sunday. His campaign will begin releasing the results of each test, a spokesman said. — Reuters