Donald Trump claimed on Sunday that he was now “immune” to coronavirus after leaving hospital just six days earlier, ahead of plans for a string of campaign rallies in swing states from Monday.
“It does give you immunity,” Mr Trump told Fox News on Sunday, a claim not supported by scientists, adding that he no longer had the disease.
Presidential physician Sean Conley said late on Saturday that Mr Trump was no longer at risk of passing on coronavirus but stopped short of saying he had tested negative and made no mention of immunity.
The president has been attempting to defend his pandemic record in the US, which has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths in the world, and convince Americans he is Covid-free. He returns to the campaign trail seeking to narrow a large polling gap with Democratic challenger Joe Biden with only 23 days until the election. A Washington Post-ABC News poll on Sunday had Mr Biden favoured by 54 per cent of likely voters, ahead of Mr Trump with 42 per cent.
Mr Trump returned to public events with a campaign speech at the White House on Saturday and plans a spate of rallies in key swing states, starting with Florida on Monday, Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Iowa on Wednesday.
“I’m feeling great,” Mr Trump said on Saturday afternoon to hundreds of supporters on the South Lawn wearing “Back the Blue” tops and waving flags, with many wearing masks and chanting “Four more years!”
On Sunday, he told Fox News he had a “protective glow” and added it looked like he could be immune “for, I don’t know, maybe a long time, maybe a short time, it could be a lifetime; nobody really knows, but I’m immune.”
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose guidelines the White House said it was following, noted that it had “limited information” about reinfections. It said there was no evidence that people who were infected with coronavirus were immune to reinfection in the following three months. Scientists are still examining reported cases of reinfections.
Mr Trump’s infection derailed his campaign’s efforts to draw a line under his handling of coronavirus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and led to millions of job losses. The president polls badly on the issue and has instead focused his campaign message on “law and order”.
Bill Gates, the billionaire software developer turned health philanthropist, told NBC on Sunday that America was “running the worst testing system, in terms of who gets access to it, of any country”.
Mr Trump has tried to change the subject, appealing to black voters and other minorities over the weekend. The White House event was partly organised by Candace Owens, a conservative commentator who champions “Blexit” — a call for African Americans and other minorities to abandon longtime support of the Democratic Party.
Black voters have overwhelmingly supported Democratic presidential candidates in recent elections and turnout among African Americans is seen as crucial to the outcome of November’s elections.
Mr Trump, who is 74, trails the 77-year-old Mr Biden in most national opinion polls and many battleground states that are key to winning the electoral college.
Conservatives could claim a pre-election boost if they can confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a new, life-long Supreme Court Justice before the elections, after the death of liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg last month opened up a contentious vacancy.
Ms Barrett, who was due to start testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, said in an opening statement released in advance that she followed the tradition of late conservative judge Antonin Scalia, who believed a judge “must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were”.
But she said courts could not solve every problem in society. “Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” she said, adding the public should not expect them to and courts should not try. “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people.”
Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, told Fox News on Sunday that he expected to vote her out of committee on October 22 and secure Senate-wide confirmation on October 27, a week before the polls. “We can easily get her confirmed before the elections,” he said.
Mr Biden has previously opposed expanding the Supreme Court by adding additional judges in a bid to alter the balance of power, but has refused to discuss his latest position ahead of the polls, claiming it was a distraction that fed into Mr Trump’s agenda. If Ms Barrett were confirmed, conservative judges would outnumber liberals by six to three.