President Trump on Sunday said in a phone call to a group of supporters that he’s “tested totally negative” for the novel coronavirus, despite White House physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley, releasing no new statements on the president’s health.
“I’ve been tested totally negative,” Trump said in an audio message his campaign posted on YouTube. “I’m going to be out in Florida tomorrow, working very hard because this is an election we have to win.”
Despite Trump’s claim that he has tested negative for the virus, the White House has not released any information since Conley sent out a memo on Saturday saying the president was no longer at risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Conley did not, however, say explicitly whether Trump had tested negative for it.
A person can be symptom free and not be a risk of transmitting the virus to others and yet can still have the coronavirus in their system.
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The president’s comments to supporters came just hours after trump spoke on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” where he told host Maria Bartiromo that he was “immune” from the virus.
“I’m immune,” Trump said.” “The president is in very good shape to fight the battles.”
While survivors of most viruses develop antibodies that guard them against becoming infected by the disease again, researches are still unclear if this is the case with COVID-19. Viruses can also mutate and cause individuals to become infected with another strain of the virus, as was the case with the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
Researchers at Harvard recently discovered that COVID-19 patients may be protected against reinfection for up to four months.
While there’s evidence that reinfection is unlikely for at least three months even for those with a mild case of COVID-19, very few diseases leave people completely immune for life. Antibodies are only one piece of the body’s defenses, and they naturally wane over time.
“Certainly it’s presumptuous to say it’s a lifetime,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist and department chairman at the Yale School of Public Health.
As to whether Trump could still be contagious, Ko said the White House appeared to be following CDC guidelines for when it is appropriate to end isolation after mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.
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But Ko cautioned that those who have had severe cases of the diseases should isolate for 20 days. He noted that Trump was treated with the steroid dexamethasone, which is normally reserved for patients with severe COVID.
Some medical experts have been skeptical that Trump could be declared free of the risk of transmitting the virus so early in the course of his illness. Just 10 days since an initial diagnosis of infection, there was no way to know for certain that someone was no longer contagious, they said.
His return to full-fledged rallies will be in Florida on Monday, a comeback that comes with the president facing stubborn deficits in the polls. The Trump campaign and White House has not indicated that any additional safety measures will be taken to prevent the transmission of the virus among those traveling on Air Force One, at the event site or at rallies scheduled for Pennsylvania and Iowa later in the week.
Campaign officials have signaled that Trump will be traveling nearly every day the rest of the campaign, and sometimes making more than one stop, an aggressive schedule for a 74-year-old who was hospitalized just days ago.
On Sunday, Trump asserted in a tweet that he had “total and complete sign off from White House Doctors” to fully return to the campaign trail, insisting he can no longer spread the disease to others and was impervious to getting sick again.
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That’s far from certain, and Twitter later flagged his tweet with a fact-check warning.
Dr. Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the doctor’s letter does not provide enough information to be assured that Trump is no longer infectious to others. He noted that Trump’s use of steroids could prolong viral shedding so the CDC’s 10-day standard may or may not apply.
“It is a judgment call,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.