'I am feeling great,' Trump tells supporters at White House

'I am feeling great,' Trump tells supporters at White House
The maskless president told supporters the US would 'defeat this terrible China virus'.
3 min read
Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19 nine days ago [Getty]
President Donald Trump appeared maskless before hundreds of supporters on Saturday for his first public event since contracting Covid-19, declaring from the White House balcony: "I am feeling great."

"I want you to know our nation is going to defeat this terrible China virus," Trump told the cheering crowd of hundreds below, most wearing masks but with very little social distancing at the outdoor event.

"It's going to disappear, it is disappearing," Trump said of the virus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and severely dented his chances of winning a second term on November 3.

"Get out and vote - and I love you," Trump told the crowd - a sea of red "MAGA" hats - who chanted back "Four more years" throughout his 18-minute, law-and-order themed speech.

Pulled off the campaign trail after testing positive for Covid-19 nine days ago, Trump has been counting the days until he can get back out.

Saturday's campaign-style event at the White House set the stage for his first rally Monday in the critical swing state of Florida - an event slammed as "reckless" by Biden, in light of concerns the president might still be contagious. 

Undeterred, the Trump campaign announced two more rallies next week, in battleground Pennsylvania Tuesday and in Iowa on Wednesday. 

Trump's biggest liability - overwhelming public dissatisfaction over his handling of the pandemic - has returned as the headline issue of the campaign thanks to his own infection, with cases again on the rise nationwide.

Trailing his Democratic rival Joe Biden by close to 10 points in national polls, Trump insists the pollsters are wrong, and is seeking to reboot his campaign less than four weeks from Election Day.

213,000 have died

While Trump, 74, has declared himself recovered - and appeared smiling and energetic at the White House - doubts linger over his health, with the president's doctor accused of a lack of transparency with the public.

The seven-day average of new daily cases recorded between October 3 and 9 - 47,184 - was the highest since the week of August 13 to 19 with an average of 47,530 new cases, according to an AFP analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

"Over 213,000 Americans have died from this virus - and the hard truth is it didn't have to happen this way," Biden tweeted on Saturday.

For months, taking their cue from a president who mostly shunned and at times mocked the wearing of masks, White House advisors were rarely seen masked inside the West Wing.

Since Trump and his wife Melania tested positive, the mood has shifted and mask wearing was compulsory at Saturday's event.

A similar gathering two weeks ago, to announce the nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, has been singled out as a likely source of many of the dozens of positive cases since linked to the White House.

Anthony Fauci, the respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has referred to it as a "superspreader event".

Many questions remain unanswered about the White House outbreak, with more than a dozen cases recorded in the president's inner circle, including his spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.

"When was the president's last negative Covid test?" asked Pete Buttigieg, a former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, now tipped for a prominent role in a Biden administration should he defeat Trump on November 3.

Barack Obama's former vice president is currently close to 10 points ahead in national polls with a solid lead in key battlegrounds.

And in the Republican camp, there is increasingly palpable concern at the state of the race.

"If on Election Day people are angry and they've given up hope and they're depressed... I think it could be a terrible election," Senator Ted Cruz warned this week.

"I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions."

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