President Trump, whose progress recovering from Covid-19 remains unclear, planned to host hundreds of people on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday for his first in-person event since announcing that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, three people familiar with the plans said.
The president is expected to address the crowd from a White House balcony, one of the people familiar with the plans said. His campaign also said that he would hold a rally in Florida on Monday.
Outside medical experts cautioned that an inappropriately expedited return to the public for Mr. Trump could risk infecting others and that resuming public duties might worsen his condition. Covid-19 patients can take turns for the worse during the second week of illness, and the president’s positive test came on Oct. 1, putting him within that window.
One person familiar with the planning for the White House event said that all attendees were required to wear masks on the complex and would have to submit to temperature checks and a questionnaire in the morning.
It remains unclear how serious Mr. Trump’s illness is, though he has said repeatedly that he feels “great.” Shortly after his diagnosis, Mr. Trump received supplemental oxygen, as well as some treatments — including the antiviral remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone — that are usually reserved for patients with severe cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that people with severe disease may need to double their isolation period from 10 days to 20 days.
“Based on what we know, he likely had severe Covid,” said Dr. Maricar Malinis, an infectious disease physician at Yale University.
Dr. Malinis also said there was some evidence suggesting that steroids like dexamethasone, which suppress the immune system, could prolong the period in which people shed the virus. That could further muddy the timeline for when the president should end his isolation.
Some in the White House and on the Trump campaign expressed concern about what the president might say at the event, and feared the gathering would serve to underscore criticism that Mr. Trump has been cavalier about a virus that has killed over 210,000 Americans.
Mr. Trump, in his first televised interview since announcing the positive test result, said Friday night on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he was off his medications. The president also said he had been retested for the coronavirus on Friday, and told the Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel that “I’m either at the bottom of the scale or free,” a likely reference to the levels of virus in his body. He said he would probably be tested again on Saturday.