President Donald Trump on Saturday will address hundreds of supporters on the South Lawn of the White House before traveling to Florida on Monday for a rally, marking his return to public events after being hobbled by the coronavirus.
Guests for Saturday’s event won’t be tested for the virus and won’t be required to wear masks, setting off fresh concerns that the White House itself has become a vector for the disease. Earlier Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, decried a previous gathering at the White House to celebrate Trump’s Supreme Court nominee as a “superspreader event.”
Trump is resuming his campaign schedule only 10 days after he was first diagnosed with Covid-19, which he acknowledged this week had made him “very sick” while shrugging off a lingering cough and insisting he now feels “perfect.”
Although the president’s physician, Sean Conley, has previously said Trump could likely resume such activities starting Saturday, it’s unclear if the president has tested negative since falling ill, or whether he is still contagious.
On Saturday, Trump will speak to a crowd gathered by conservative activist Candace Owens, whose Blexit Foundation encourages Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party.
His speech is being billed as “Remarks to Peaceful Protesters for Law & Order,” according to an invitation. He’ll address the crowd from the Truman Balcony off of the Blue Room, a large state room on the main floor of the White House. More than two thousand guests have been invited, according to a person familiar with the event.
In a statement, the White House said attendees will be “instructed” to wear a mask while at the complex, but will only be screened for Covid-19 with a temperature check and “brief questionnaire” — not a test. The statement added that attendees will be “strongly encouraged,” but not required, to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus guidelines, such as social distancing and mask wearing.
“The health and safety of all attendees is our priority,” the statement said.
ABC News first reported Trump’s appearance at Saturday’s event.
On Monday, Trump will resume his campaign travel, heading to Sanford, Fla., for a MAGA rally.
Florida is a critical state for Trump in the upcoming election, and his campaign has been making an aggressive play to win over Latino and Hispanic voters in the region. As part of that push, Vice President Mike Pence will also travel to Florida on Saturday for a bus tour starting in Orlando.
Both Trump’s rallies and large gatherings at the White House have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after they were linked to a coronavirus outbreak that has spread through the upper ranks of the administration. The events have regularly flouted basic pandemic protocols, such as crowd-size restrictions and social distancing.
A Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett late last month caused numerous infections among Trump’s staff and allies. And in the following days, Trump and his team traveled in tight quarters to several rallies and fundraisers, likely spreading the virus further.
The full extent of the outbreak is unknown, but it has ensnared, in addition to the president, the first lady, the head of the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign manager, the White House press secretary and several of Trump’s top aides.
When asked about Trump resuming his rallies, Democratic challenger Joe Biden said he “wouldn’t show up unless you had a mask and were distanced,” according to a pool report.
“Good luck,” Biden said.
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