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Still Undergoing COVID-19 Treatment, Trump Vows He'll Be Ready To Debate Next Week

President Trump takes off his face mask Monday night as he arrives at the White House upon his return from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Nicholas Kamm
AFP via Getty Images
President Trump takes off his face mask Monday night as he arrives at the White House upon his return from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

President Trump, who is still receiving treatment for COVID-19, tweetedTuesday morning that he is "feeling great" and plans to move forward with the second presidential debate slated for Oct. 15 in Miami.

His pronouncement comes less than one day after he left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he spent almost 72 hours receiving treatment for COVID-19. Trump's physicians reported Tuesday that the president had a "restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms" and has stable vital signs.

His physician, Sean Conley, told reporters Monday that although he is cautiously optimistic about the president's prognosis, medical staff will remain on guard for another week.

Conley also said, "We'll see," when asked about any potential campaign travel for the president. The next debate is in nine days, casting uncertainty on what is possible for the president to do both in terms of his own recovery as well as concerns over exposure.

Trump, who reportedly views illness a sign of weakness, has tried to project an image of strength in the midst of a White House in chaos as increasing numbers of staff test positive for the virus and the president's medical team and staff send mixed messages on his symptoms and treatment.

Upon his return to the White House on Monday evening, Trump walked up the staircase to the South Portico entrance, turned to face the cameras, removed his mask and gave two thumbs-up.

White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah told Fox News the president's appearance on the White House balcony was meant to communicate confidence to the American people.

Over the weekend, it seemed possible that Trump would take on a different tone when talking about the severity of COVID-19 now that he is a patient battling the disease.

"I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the 'let's read the book' school," he said in a videoon Sunday. (It's worth noting that Trump has been briefed extensively about the pandemic by members of his White House Coronavirus Task Force and other advisers.)

But by the time he was discharged from Walter Reed, the president had undermined any possibility of changing his rhetoric to push back against criticism that he doesn't take it seriously.

He quickly uploaded a video to Twitter upon arriving at the White House in which he told Americans not to be afraid of the coronavirus and to "get out there."

He doubled down on that message with a tweet: "Don't be afraid of COVID." It sparked outrage as people reacted with their own experiences of losing loved ones to the disease, which has sickened millions and killed more than 210,000 Americans.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.