October 12, 2020 -- Just 8 days after President Donald Trump announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, he welcomed hundreds to the South Lawn of the White House, reassuring them of his recovery. A close-up of his right hand, shown in an AP pool photograph from the Saturday event, had two bandages, presumably the site where he received some of the COVID drugs intravenously during his hospital stay at Walter Reed.
Keeping his remarks uncharacteristically brief, about 15 minutes, he reassured the crowd that he was feeling great. The event was organized by Trump supporter Candace Owens, the "BLEXIT" movement co-founder who is urging Black voters to leave the Democratic party, the New York Times reported. Many were seen in the crowd wearing masks, but there was little or no social distancing.
Those attending were instructed to complete a screening questionnaire and to have their temperature taken before joining the event, the Times said.
It is still unclear whether the President has tested negative for COVID. In a taped interview with Fox News' contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on Friday, Trump said he had been retested but had not yet found out the numbers, but that "I know I'm at either the bottom of the scale of free."
Appearing on the balcony at first with a mask, which he took it off to speak, Trump welcomed "our black and Hispanic community" and praised law enforcement. Many in the crowd were wearing red "Make America Great Again" caps, giving the gathering the flavor of a campaign rally. Trump repeated a frequent claim he makes about the virus going away, but this time, he added science to the mix. "But it is going to disappear," he said. "And it is disappearing and the vaccines are going to help and the therapeutics are going to help a lot."
Today's ceremony is just two weeks after the Supreme Court nomination ceremony held in the Rose Garden to announce nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Since then, more than 34 staffers, journalists and other contacts have tested positive for the virus. Few masks were worn at that event and people sat very close together. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News earlier this week he terms that a superspreader event.
One of those attending who tested positive, Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, has been chastised by NDU students, who have been expected to follow strict protocols on campus to stop the spread of COVID. According to ABC News, the university student senate passed a resolution Thursday evening formally disapproving of the priest's violations of university health policy while attending the ceremony. The student senate has posted a petition calling for his resignatio. That resolution failed to pass so it was followed by a student issued ''statement of disapproval."
On CNN, Jeremy Faust, MD, an emergency physician at Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston, balked at the lack of social distancing, especially since the majority of the crow were Black or Hispanics, two groups disproportionately struck by the virus and severe illness. "If you believe nuclear power is safe, you don't go and have a picnic at Chernobyl the next day to prove that point."