President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail on Monday, his first since he was hospitalized for Covid-19, taking familiar hits at his Democratic rival Joe Biden and urging his supporters in the crucial battleground state to vote .
At Trump’s Florida rally, the president was also cavalier about his battle with Covid-19, telling the crowd — estimated at 7,000 people — in a state that has been hit hard by the virus that he felt strong and better than before. The president took a myriad of treatments when he was hospitalized and told the crowd he wanted to make his treatment plan available to everyone.
“We are going to take whatever the hell they gave me and we are going to distribute it to hospitals,” he said.
He even mused he could kiss everyone in the crowd, some of whom were not wearing masks. Many were also packed tightly together at the outdoor event.
“They say I’m immune. I feel so powerful,” Trump told the crowd in Sanford. “I’ll walk into that audience, I’ll walk in there, kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women.”
Trump’s rally was the first he has had since he, the first lady, and several White House and campaign aides were diagnosed with Covid-19. Florida is a vital battleground state and polls show that Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, is leading Trump, who won the state in 2016.
The president bashed the polls, claiming his rallies are the true barometer of his support.
“These are the real polls, right? The other guy gets out there and they work and work and work and 30 people show up,” Trump said, referring to Biden, who has placed more stringent safety guidelines at his events.
Trump's physician released a memo Monday saying the president had recently tested negative on consecutive days and was no longer contagious. The memo did not state that Trump has immunity.
Trump and the administration have repeatedly dodged questions about when the president last tested negative for the virus. The White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in his memo that a number of measures were used to test Trump and that he had tested negative on antigen tests instead of the more conclusive polymerase chain reaction test. Conley did not say on which days Trump tested negative.
"This comprehensive data, in concert with the CDC's guidelines for removal of transmission-based precautions, have informed our medical team's assessment that the President is not infectious to others," Conley said in the memo.
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Trump acknowledged the more than 210,000 Americans who died from the virus but again shifted blame toward China despite former White House aides claiming the president showed indifference at the beginning of the pandemic and the administration’s response cost lives.
“The bottom line is we saved millions of lives. When this first came out if we did not do a good job they predicted 2.2 million people would die,” he said. “It’s China’s fault. They allowed this to happen. They allowed it to escape China.”
Biden held events Monday in Ohio, another battleground state. Vice President Mike Pence was also campaigning in Ohio on Monday. However, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Biden's running mate, was not on the trail, participating instead as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court.
Trump took shots at his rival at Monday’s rally, claiming the Democratic nominee would usher in a “socialist health care takeover.” He also hammered Biden for dodging questions on whether he would increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court.
He also pushed for the reopening of Florida, which is loosening guidelines as it continues to record new cases, to boost its tourism and opposed locking down other states. He claimed that his administration would deliver a vaccine and bring prosperity to the country.
“And if you vote for me, prosperity will surge, normal life that’s what we want, we want a normal life,’ he told the crowd. “Biden would terminate the recovery, delay the vaccine, prolong the pandemic and annihilate Florida’s economy with a draconian, unscientific lockdown.”
Earlier Monday, Trump ranted on Twitter about health care and other issues after Democrats grilled Barrett about her views on the Affordable Care Act, which they argued Republicans are trying to overturn through the courts.
“Republicans must state loudly and clearly that WE are going to provide much better Healthcare at a much lower cost. Get the word out! Will always protect pre-existing conditions!!!” Trump wrote on Twitter after the committee adjourned for a lunch break.
At Monday's rally, he claimed he would protect pre-existing conditions, a popular provision of the ACA.
Trump has long touted a health care plan to replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare, but Republicans have failed to offer a plan that would protect pre-existing conditions. Trump backed Republican legislation in 2017, which failed, that included state waivers that would have allowed insurers to charge higher prices for sicker people.