President Trump returned to the White House on Monday to continue his round-the-clock fight against the coronavirus after a three-day hospital stay, proclaiming he felt great and his progress was a testament to the “great drugs” his administration was fostering to combat COVID-19.
Mr. Trump announced his discharge in typical fashion, tweeting he would be home by dinnertime: “Feeling really good!”
He walked without assistance to his Marine One chopper, which lifted him from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and dropped him off on the South Lawn of the White House around 7 p.m.
He waved to assembled reporters, climbed the stairs to the portico balcony and took off his mask before saluting the helicopter and turning inside.
“Though he may not be entirely out of the woods yet, the team and I agree that all our evaluations — and, most importantly, his clinical status — support his safe return home, where he’ll be surrounded by world-class medical care, 24/7,” Mr. Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, said earlier at Walter Reed.
The doctor said it had been 72 hours since the president’s last fever and that his breathing and oxygen levels were normal.
Dr. Conley described the president as a “phenomenal patient” who held court with his doctors on what was safe and reasonable as he itched to get back on the job and run for reelection.
Mr. Trump was a patient at Walter Reed for three days. He was admitted late Friday, less than 24 hours after testing positive for the coronavirus, as did first lady Melania Trump.
The president’s oxygen levels dropped Friday and Saturday, prompting doctors to recommend a steroid, dexamethasone. He also received an “antibody cocktail” from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and a course of remdesivir, an antiviral drug.
“We’re in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to a patient who’s received the therapies he has so early in the course” of treatment, Dr. Conley said.
Dr. Conley said the medical team was working with infectious disease experts to make sure his office space in the White House is safe. He said it’s typical to get patients out of the hospital, once it is reasonable, and Mr. Trump did not show signs of neurological impairment.
“I think you’ve seen the videos, and now the tweets, and you’ll see him shortly. You know — he’s back,” Dr. Conley said.
Mr. Trump told Americans not to be afraid of COVID-19, which is killing hundreds in the U.S. per day.
“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!” he tweeted.
The U.S. has been developing multiple therapies that slash the fatality rate of COVID-19. However, unlike most other patients, the president had round-the-clock care from a team of doctors and quick access to monoclonal antibodies that are still in clinical trials.
Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden said the president needs to take the virus seriously because Americans continue to get infected and suffer.
“I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists,” he said in Miami. “Cases and deaths are climbing in many states. I hope the president’s recovery is swift and successful, but the nation’s COVID crisis is far, far from over.”
But at a televised town-hall meeting later in the evening, Mr. Biden said “quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised” that Mr. Trump contracted the disease. He appeared to blame the president for becoming infected.
“Anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying, ‘Masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter,’ I think is responsible for what happens to them,” Mr. Biden said.
More than 210,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, which is circulating at high levels, especially in the Midwest.
Doctors reported on Mr. Trump’s progress even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on how the coronavirus may spread through the air. It now says the virus, under certain conditions, can infect people who are more than 6 feet away.
“In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise,” the CDC said. “Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles.”
The virus continued to ripple through the confines of the White House. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced Monday that she had tested positive. That means the president’s chief spokeswoman, campaign manager Bill Stepien and the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, have all contracted the virus.
Ms. McEnany, who hosted an indoor press briefing Thursday and outdoor media gaggles without a mask over the weekend, said the White House medical unit did not consider members of the press to be close contacts.
“As an essential worker, I have worked diligently to provide needed information to the American people at this time,” she said.
The fallout from White House infections crossed state lines after Mr. Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday to meet with donors at his golf property, despite knowing that senior aide Hope Hicks had tested positive after traveling with him to Minnesota on Wednesday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, wasn’t happy.
“The President & his staff acted recklessly in coming to New Jersey knowing that they had been exposed to someone with a confirmed positive test,” the governor tweeted. “We hope that no confirmed cases come out of the event in Bedminster. This is a matter of humanity, but also of leadership by example.”
“We continue to investigate reports that suggest the Bedminster event may not have complied with our current rules, which may have put others at risk,” he wrote. “Any failures to comply with our emergency orders will be referred to [the state attorney general] for a follow-up.”
Mr. Murphy, who had developed a rapport with Mr. Trump during the pandemic, said contact tracers are tracking down more than 200 attendees and nearly 20 staff members tied to the events.
State authorities are working with the CDC to locate out-of-state contacts, too, and said all attendees should self-quarantine for 14 days.
Political surrogates in Washington said Mr. Trump is eager to resume work and campaigning as Republican allies work to confirm a Supreme Court justice and reach a bipartisan deal to stimulate the economy.
In the meantime, Vice President Mike Pence plans to visit key states, including Arizona, on Thursday after his debate with Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala D. Harris, in Utah on Wednesday.
“I spoke to the president a little while back, and he sounded great,” Mr. Pence told reporters at Joint Base Andrews near Washington. “President Trump is going home tonight, and we are headed to Utah.”
Mr. Trump has been trying to show resilience. He posted Twitter videos from the hospital and rode by his supporters outside of Walter Reed late Sunday afternoon in the back of a black SUV.
The president pushed back against critics who said he put Secret Service agents at risk of contracting the coronavirus from the president.
“It is reported that the Media is upset because I got into a secure vehicle to say thank you to the many fans and supporters who were standing outside of the hospital for many hours, and even days, to pay their respect to their President,” he tweeted. “If I didn’t do it, Media would say RUDE!!!”
⦁ Alex Swoyer and Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.