US President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail for the first time after the White House revealed he has now tested negative for COVID-19 for consecutive days.
Addressing a large crowd of Trump supporters, standing shoulder-to-shoulder mostly without masks, at the Orlando Sanford International Airport on Tuesday (Australian time), Mr Trump said “w
“It’s great to be back in my home state, Florida, to make my official return to the campaign trail.
“I am so energised by your prayers and humbled by your support,” he said.
Mr Trump, 74, who spent three nights in a military hospital for treatment, said on Sunday he had fully recovered and was no longer infectious, but did not say directly whether he had tested negative for the coronavirus.
The president has tested negative to COVID-19 on consecutive days, the first test results announced by the White House since Mr Trump said on October 2 that he contracted the virus.
In a memo on Monday (Washington time), Dr Sean Conley said the tests and other clinical and laboratory data “indicate a lack of detectable viral replication”.
Mr Trump is seeking to put his bout with COVID-19 behind him with the return to the campaign trail in Florida, as new polls show him losing more ground to Democratic rival Joe Biden in two battleground states that could decide the November 3 election.
The evening rally at an airport in Sanford, Florida, on Monday local time, was the first in a jammed pack week of scheduled campaign events.
Mr Trump’s rally in Florida, and rallies in Pennsylvania on Tuesday local time, Iowa on Wednesday and North Carolina on Thursday, will be watched to see whether the president has changed his approach to campaigning since contracting the virus.
The Republican president is seeking to change the dynamics of a race that opinion polls show he is losing to Democratic rival Joe Biden just 21 days before election day.
Mr Trump has worked furiously to shift public attention away from the virus and his handling of the pandemic, which has infected nearly 7.7 million people in the US, killed more than 214,000 and put millions out of work.
But his own illness has put the spotlight squarely on his coronavirus response.
Meanwhile, Mr Biden, in a sign of fresh optimism, heads on Monday local time to Ohio, a state Mr Trump won by eight percentage points in 2016.
It’s Mr Biden’s second campaign trip in as many weeks to Ohio, which was once thought out of reach but where polls now show a tight race.
He has been criticised for failing to encourage supporters at campaign events, and even White House staff, to wear protective masks and abide by social-distancing guidelines.
At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr Trump, did not wear a mask when he spoke from a White House balcony on Saturday, urging hundreds of largely black and Latino supporters to help get out the vote.
Most in the crowd were wearing masks but not following social-distancing guidelines.
Mr Trump told Fox News on Sunday he felt good and pointed to his physician’s memo from Saturday saying he had taken a test showing he was no longer infectious.
“I passed the highest test, the highest standards, and I’m in great shape,” Mr Trump said.
Without producing evidence Mr Trump also said that he was now immune, an assertion that drew a flag from Twitter for violating the social media platform’s rules about misleading information related to COVID-19.
Most recent polls in Florida, where a Trump loss would dramatically narrow his path to re-election, show Biden with a small lead.
Mr Trump won Florida over the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton in 2016 by just 1.2 percentage points.
While in Ohio, Mr Biden will deliver a speech in Toledo meant to undermine some voters’ perception that the former real estate entrepreneur is better on handling the economy.