WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump appeared in public on Friday (Oct 2) evening for first time since being stricken by COVID-19, boarding his Marine One helicopter for a flight to a military hospital.
Trump walked out of the White House and gave a thumbs-up but did not speak. Members of the aircrew, Secret Service agents and White House staff wore face coverings to protect themselves from the president onboard the helicopter.
In his first public comments since his diagnosis, Trump said he believes he is "doing very well", in a short video message posted on his Twitter account.
"I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I am going to Walter Reed hospital. I think I am doing very well. But we are going to make sure that things work out," Trump said.
"The First Lady is doing very well," he added.
The White House said the visit of “a few days” to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was precautionary and that Trump would continue to work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties. Online video showed a small group of Trump supporters outside Walter Reed late on Friday waving Trump 2020 flags, most not wearing masks.
“President Trump remains in good spirts, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day," said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the president will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.”
READ: Trump to carry out duties 'without disruption' while recovering from COVID-19: US president's physician
Trump has a mild fever, according to a source familiar with the matter. White House doctor Sean Conley said late on Friday that Trump was doing very well, did not need supplemental oxygen, and had received a first dose of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences that has been shown to shorten hospital stays.
In a tweet late on Friday, the president wrote: "Going well, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!"
Earlier on Friday, the White House said Trump had been injected with an experimental antibody cocktail by the White House physician.
He received an intravenous dose of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals's dual antibody, Dr Conley said.
Trump was also taking immune system boosters zinc and vitamin D, aspirin, and other generic drugs.
Regeneron's drug, REGN-COV2, is part of a class of experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies: manufactured copies of human antibodies to the virus that are being studied for use in patients with early illness.
Just a month before the presidential election, Trump's revelation that he was positive for the virus came by tweet about 1am after he had returned from an afternoon political fundraiser. He had gone ahead, saying nothing to the crowd though knowing he had been exposed to an aide with the disease that has infected millions in America and killed more than a million people worldwide.
First lady Melania Trump also tested positive, the president said, and several others in the White House have, too, prompting concern that the White House or even Trump himself might have spread the virus further.
MORE PEOPLE AROUND TRUMP TEST POSITIVE
A number of other prominent Republicans also tested positive on Friday, including former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and Republican senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, who met the president at announcement of Trump's Supreme Court judge nomination on Sep 26.
Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, also tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and will work from home, according to a senior campaign official.
With just 31 days to go until Election Day, Trump's campaign said it would postpone rallies and other events where he was scheduled to appear, or take them online.
Vice President Mike Pence, who would take over presidential duties if Trump became severely ill, tested negative, a spokesman said. The former Indiana governor, 61, is working from his own residence several miles from the White House.
Trump is at high risk because of his age and weight. He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.
Trump has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of the virus, rarely wearing a protective mask and urging states and cities to “reopen” and reduce or eliminate shutdown rules.
The president’s physician, Dr Conley, said in a memo late Friday that Trump “remains fatigued but in good spirits" and that a team of experts was evaluating both the president and first lady in regard to next steps.
The first lady, who is 50, has a “mild cough and headache”, Dr Conley reported, and the remainder of the first family, including the Trumps’ son Barron, who lives at the White House, tested negative.
Both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have tested negative, their campaign said. Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus Friday morning and “remains in good health,” his spokesman said.
Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was with him and many others on Sep 26 and has been on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, also tested negative, the White House said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was himself hospitalized with COVID-19 in April, said on Saturday he had no doubt Trump would make a strong recovery.
"He's a naturally obviously very resilient character and I'm sure he'll come through it very well," Johnson told reporters.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, joining well-wishers at home and abroad, sent a message to Trump and his wife on Saturday, wishing them a speedy recovery, Chinese state television reported.
Trump's diagnosis was sure to have a destabilising effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus has spread through the highest levels of the US government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled with him during the week had tested positive.