Just 11 days after revealing he had tesed positive to COVID-19, US President Donald Trump resumed his feverish campaign for re-election with a massive rally in Florida.
Mr Trump flew into the Orlando Sanford International Airport on Air Force One on Tuesday (Australian time).
The ensuing rally unfolded with all the trademark patriotism and energy for the crowd of thousands, many without masks and all waving US flags or Trump merchandise.
With his new exit song, The Village People’s YMCA, blaring over the loudspeakers, the President did what has become his trademark dance, pumping his fists almost in time to the beat as the crowd roared.
Having been confirmed to have tested negative to the coronavirus by White House doctors before leaving Washington, Mr Trump looked and behaved like he had fully recovered, displaying no signs of lingering infection.
He even joked that he was healthy enough to plunge into the crowd and give voters “a big fat kiss”.
“I feel so powerful.
“I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women … everybody. I’ll just give ya a big fat kiss,” he said.
Boisterous and bellicose, his voice perhaps a touch scratchy, Mr Trump thanked the audience for its good wishes and declared he was no longer contagious as he embarked on a frenetic final stretch of the campaign.
He held forth for an hour, keen to get his struggling campaign back on track with just weeks left before election day on November 3.
“Under my leadership, we’re delivering a safe vaccine and a rapid recovery like no one can even believe,” Mr Trump insisted.
“If you look at our upward path, no country in the world has recovered the way we have recovered.”
And though he was hospitalised and battling the virus only a week ago, Mr Trump’s message on COVID-19 has been unaltered since his diagnosis: The pandemic is a thing of the past, even as hundreds of people continue to die of the virus in the US each day.
Mr Trump insisted that, after being given experimental medication and other VIP treatment, he felt great and was glad he no longer needed to be concerned about infection because he’s now “immune”.
Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has said those who recover from COVID-19 are likely to be immune for some time, but there are cases emerging of people getting reinfected weeks or months later.
On Monday, Mr Trump returned to his usual attack lines, slamming Democrats as “engaged and unhinged and out for vengeance”, and hyping “tremendous progress” on virus therapeutics.
He promised the US’s third-quarter economy would be “record-setting” and claimed that, if he won in November, “normal life” would resume, while rival Joe Biden would delay a COVID vaccine and destroy the economy with a “draconian” lockdown.
Ahead of the election, Mr Trump is pushing to correct a stubborn deficit in national and battleground state polling as he continues to spread misinformation about a virus that he spent months downplaying.
That includes in Florida, which is seen as crucial to his re-election chances.
In 2016, Mr Trump beat then Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the state by just over 112,000 votes.
Some recent polls have suggested a close race in Florida, while others have Mr Biden ahead.