President Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House on Monday evening after leaving the military hospital where he has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. He ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness, the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans—and then entered the White House without a protective mask. Landing at the White House on Marine One after leaving Walter Reed Medical Center, the AP reports, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask, and declared, "I feel good." He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. The president, who remains contagious, entered the White House, where aides were visible in the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.
Medical experts disagreed Monday with the president's assessment of the pandemic. "We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population,” said Dr. David Nace of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "It's an unconscionable message," agreed Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University. "I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread." There was political pushback to Trump's attitude toward the virus, as well. Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told the Houston Chronicle that Trump had "let his guard down" in his effort to show that the country was moving beyond the virus and had created confusion about how to stay safe. In addition to first lady Melania Trump, various White House aides have contracted the virus. (The president's press secretary has tested positive.)