President Trump returned to the Oval Office six days after testing positive for the coronavirus, hoping to show he’s on the rebound after his doctor reported Wednesday he remains symptom-free, can breathe normally and hasn’t had a fever in four days.
White House officials said Mr. Trump left the residence to receive an update on stimulus talks and Hurricane Delta as it threatens the Gulf Coast.
The president, who tested positive for the coronavirus last Thursday, is still recovering from the disease that has killed more than 210,000 people in the U.S.
He had been secluded in the White House residence since Monday evening, following a three-day hospital stay, so his decision to traverse the campus raised safety questions amid a broader outbreak at the complex.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest a person in Mr. Trump’s situation should self-isolate for 10 days after symptoms appear, taking him to about the start of next week. Yet the president is locked in a tough reelection battle and wants to show resolve.
Officials said staff access to the president is “extremely limited” for now.
Mr. Trump entered the West Wing from outside, instead of using its hallways, and met with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and adviser Dan Scavino, who wore personal protective equipment. Reporters were not called into the Oval Office.
Mr. Trump’s return to the iconic room followed a rosy memo from his physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, earlier Wednesday.
It said Mr. Trump’s oxygen levels and respiratory rate are normal, so he hasn’t needed supplemental oxygen since the weekend. He also said antibodies were detected in Mr. Trump’s blood for the first time.
“The president this morning says, ‘I feel great!’” Dr. Conley wrote.
Mr. Trump remained out of public view but tweeted plenty. He used the platform to complain about the media and the probe into his 2016 campaign. At one point Wednesday, he thanked a supporter who wrote she would “wade through a sea of COVID infested water” to vote for him on Nov. 3.
He also released a video Wednesday saying it is important to speed drug therapies to hospitals to help people overcome the coronavirus, saying it helped him rebound from infection.
“I wasn’t feeling so hot, and within a very short period of time, they gave me Regeneron. And other things too, but I think this was the key. But they gave me Regeneron and it was like unbelievable, I felt good immediately,” he said, referring to the company that made an experimental antibody cocktail he received.
The president, who is still recovering from the virus, is outside the White House wearing a navy suit and red necktie in the five-minute video. He doesn’t appear to be suffering from symptoms.
He said seniors, in particular, will get the drugs quickly and suggested they might be delivered at no cost.
“I want to get for you what I got,” Mr. Trump said.
Deputy White House press secretary Brian Morgenstern told reporters that Mr. Trump is speaking regularly to senior aides and congressional leaders, as they vet his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump confirmed they had the virus last week after reports that a senior aide, Hope Hicks, had tested positive after traveling with the president to Minnesota at midweek.
Mr. Morgenstern said he does not know the last time Mr. Trump tested negative — furthering that mystery, as the White House declines to disclose the date. The information could be relevant to people who came in contact with Mr. Trump last week, before his positive test, and want to take precautions.
“We’re not asking to go back through a bunch of records and look backwards,” Mr. Morgenstern said. “We’re looking at the contact-tracing process, to mitigate further spread of the disease.”
Since last week, several aides have tested positive for the virus, including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and senior adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller.
Mr. Meadows said the White House is trying to track down the source of the infections. He said it is unlikely that all of the cases are related to a Sept. 26 event in the Rose Garden to introduce Judge Barrett.
The president received a mix of drug therapies and supplemental oxygen during his stay at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from late Friday to Monday evening.
One of them was the investigational “antibody cocktail” drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. It was not clear from Dr. Conley’s memo Wednesday whether Mr. Trump’s newly detected antibodies are from that therapy or his body’s natural response to infection.
In a statement, Regeneron said most standard tests for immunoglobulin G, the type of antibody, would not distinguish between self-made antibodies and ones delivered by the company’s therapy.
“However, given the volume of IgG antibodies delivered in our therapy, and the timing of these tests, it is likely that the second test is detecting [Regeneron treatment] antibodies,” the company said.
Dr. Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said “of course” the antibodies could be from the Regeneron treatments.
“They can last for weeks, if not more, depending on how they are building their monoclonals,” he said. “They need to be sure that when they test him serologically, they are using the appropriate antibody test that would not be likely to detect the Regeneron treatment.”
The blood labs that contained the antibodies were drawn Monday.
“If he does have antibodies naturally, he’s probably been infected for longer than five days,” Dr. Mina said.
The White House has not offered additional information beyond Dr. Conley’s memo.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly highlighted the power of innovative therapies in the coronavirus fight, often placing them on par with vaccine development.
Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. said Wednesday it is seeking emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a monoclonal antibody treatment that has been shown to reduce hospitalizations.
The company said the drug, LY-CoV555, also reduced viral load when used in combination with another one of its antibody products. The company plans to seek approval of the combined therapy by November.