Trump returns to White House as outbreak expands to more staff and military

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –In the wake of his return to the White House yesterday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for COVID-19 treatment, President Donald Trump continued to downplay the threat from the virus, with more infections reported in a growing circle of people around him and in upper military ranks.

In another development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released its COVID-19 vaccine standards for developers, following an earlier block by the White House due to its concerns that the guidelines would delay the arrival of the first doses until after Election Day.

Trump returns with defiant messaging

After Trump returned to the White House by helicopter last night, he climbed stairs to a balcony, took off his mask, and posed for pictures, drawing a contrast to reports yesterday of infections in White House staff, including housekeepers, and news photos of workers in personal protective equipment disinfecting the press room in the facility’s West Wing. Two people with confirmed COVID-19 are now being isolated treated at the White House: Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

As Trump prepared to leave the hospital yesterday, he tweeted that Americans shouldn’t fear the virus or let it dominate them. His comments, followed by his mask removal, prompted sharp blowback from public health officials, who accused the President of downplaying the virus again and pointed out that Trump received a combination of experimental and state-of-the-art treatments that most patients don’t get.

Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said yesterday on CNN, “How we behave over the next few months will determine whether we have 270,000 dead Americans by the end of this year or over 400,000 dead Americans. And the President has sent a message to the American people: ‘Let’s go for the 400,000 number’.”

This morning, Trump downplayed the virus again, erroneously tweeting that COVID-19 is less deadly than flu and that Americans should learn to live with COVID-19 like they do for flu. Twitter flagged the tweet as violating its rules for misleading and potentially harmful information.

Meanwhile, White House doctor Sean Conely, DO, released a statement that said after meeting with Trump in the White House today following his first night back in the White House, the president reports no symptoms, that his vital signs remain stable, and that he continues to do “extremely well.”

More infections in Trump’s circle, military ranks

In related developments, two more people who apparently were close to Trump have tested positive, Jennifer Jacobs, a senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, reported today on Twitter. One is Jayna McCarron, a military aide, and another an active duty military member who serves as the president’s valet.

In a breaking development, Roll Call reported, citing a White House administration spokesperson, that so far 123 frontline workers in the Capitol complex have tested positive for COVID-19 or are presumed to have it.

The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of people who attended a Sep 26 Rose Garden event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, though at least eight people who attended the event became infected, the New York Times reported. Officials with the Washington, DC, health department haven’t been successful in connecting with the White House to help with contact tracing, according to NBC News.

The Coast Guard today announced that Admiral Charles Ray, its second-in-command, tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday after experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend, The Hill reported.

Ray met with other top military officials on Oct 2 at The Pentagon, which prompted reports from other media outlets that Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Milley and other Joint Chiefs are quarantining at home.

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