US President Donald Trump has returned to the White House after 72 hours of treatment at a military hospital to face a campaign upended by his COVID-19 infection barely a month before the election that will define his future.
Pumping his fist and giving a thumbs up he emerged from the Walter Reed National Medical Centre in Washington and walked to a vehicle that took him to the Marine One helicopter to fly to the White House.
His doctors cleared him for discharge from the hospital to continue treatment at the official residence.
His personal doctor Sean Conley told reporters, “He’s met or exceeded all standard hospital discharge criteria.”
Trump did not answer questions shouted at him by reporters as he emerged from the hospital.
But in a tweet in the morning he said, “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
At the White House, he walked up the steps to the balcony and in a show of defiance took off his mask and saluted the helicopter crew.
He was criticised for appearing without a mask by several politicians and physicians. Democratic Senator Chris Coons told ABC TV that Trump was being reckless and dangerous.
Biden said at a Florida campaign event earlier, “Now that he’s busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists. Support masks. Support a mask mandate nationwide.”
His discharge from the hospital and arrival at the White House were carefully orchestrated by the media savvy president to cut into the prime time TV news and show himself able to function by himself.
Trump’s return to the White House comes as several people close to him have come down with the coronavirus. His press secretary Kayeigh McEnany was the latest to announce that she had tested positive for the virus.
It is estimated that almost 20 White House staffers are ill with COVID-19, two of them from McEnany’s office.
The functioning of the White House will be strained by many staffers having to quarantine themselves due to exposure to those affected by COVID-19.