President Trump said in a phone call to a group of supporters on Sunday that he had “tested totally negative” for the novel coronavirus, despite White House physcian Navy Cmdr. Dr Sean Conley, not releasing any new statements on the president’s health.
“I tested totally negative,” Trump said in an audio message his campaign posted on YouTube. “I’m going to be in Florida tomorrow working really hard because it’s an election we have to win.”
Despite Trump’s claim he tested negative for the virus, the White House has not released any information since Conley sent a memo on Saturday saying the president was no longer at risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Conley, however, did not explicitly say whether Trump tested negative for it.
A person may not have any symptoms and may not be at risk of passing the virus on to other people and may still have the coronavirus in their system.
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The president’s comments to supporters came just hours after Trump spoke on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” where he told host Maria Bartiromo he was “immune” to the virus.
“I am immune,” Trump said. “The president is in very good shape to fight the battles.”
While survivors of most viruses develop antibodies that prevent them from being infected again with the disease, research is still unclear whether this is the case with COVID-19. Viruses can also mutate and cause individuals to become infected with another strain of the virus, as was the case with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.
Harvard researchers recently found that patients with COVID-19 can be protected from reinfection for up to four months.
While there is evidence that reinfection is unlikely for at least three months, even for people with a mild case of COVID-19, very few illnesses leave people fully immune for life. Antibodies are just one part of the body’s defenses and they naturally decrease over time.
“It’s certainly presumptuous to say it’s a lifetime,” said Dr. Albert Ko, infectious disease specialist and department head of the Yale School of Public Health.
As to whether Trump could still be contagious, Ko said the White House appeared to be following CDC guidelines for when it is appropriate to end isolation after mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.
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But Ko warned those who have had severe cases of illnesses should self-isolate for 20 days. He noted that Trump was being treated with the steroid dexamethasone, which is normally reserved for patients with severe COVID.
Some medical experts are skeptical that Trump could be declared free from the risk of transmitting the virus so early in his illness. Just 10 days after an initial diagnosis of infection, there was no way to know for sure someone was no longer contagious, they said.
His return to full-fledged rallies will take place in Florida on Monday, a comeback that comes with the president facing stubborn deficits in the polls. The Trump campaign and the White House have not indicated that additional security measures will be taken to prevent transmission of the virus among people traveling on Air Force One, at the event site or at rallies scheduled for Pennsylvania. and Iowa later in the week.
Campaign officials have reported that Trump will travel almost every day for the remainder of the campaign and sometimes make more than one stop, an aggressive schedule for a 74-year-old man who was hospitalized just days ago.
On Sunday, Trump said in a tweet that he had “the full and complete approval of White House doctors” to return fully to the election campaign, insisting that he could no longer spread the disease to others and that he was insensitive to the disease.
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It’s far from certain, and Twitter later flagged its tweet with a fact-checking warning.
Dr Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the doctor’s letter did not provide enough information to be sure Trump was no longer contagious to others. He noted that Trump’s steroid use could prolong viral shedding, so the CDC’s 10-day standard may or may not apply.
“It’s a matter of judgment,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.