U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he will “probably” get tested for the novel coronavirus on Friday, while refusing to confirm if he’s tested negative since returning to the White House after three days of hospital care.
Speaking to Fox News, Trump declined multiple times to clearly say if he’s been tested for COVID-19 or when his last test even was, as speculation continues to swirl around his health even while his doctors cleared him for a return to public events.
He eventually told the host, Sean Hannity, that “there’s no reason to test all the time.”
“Probably the test will be tomorrow,” Trump said. “The actual test, because there’s no reason to test all the time. But they found very little infection, or virus, if any. I don’t even think they found any, I didn’t go into it greatly with the doctors.”
Earlier in the interview, he claimed his doctors told him he’s in “great shape.”
Trump’s comments came hours after his physician said that the U.S. president had completed his course of therapy for the coronavirus, had remained stable since returning to the White House and could return to public engagements on Saturday.
Dr. Sean Conley said in a memo released by the White House that Trump had responded “extremely well” to treatment without any evidence of adverse effects.
Trump mused to Hannity that he might try to do a rally on Saturday night, probably in Florida, followed by another rally Sunday night in Pennsylvania.
“I feel so good,” he said.
On Thursday morning, Trump told Fox Business Network that he has been “cured” of COVID-19 infection and is “essentially very clean.” He acknowledged that he hadn’t been tested recently, but would not say definitively when his last test was administered or what the result was.
“I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young, so I’m lucky in that way,” he claimed during the interview.
“I’ll be tested pretty soon, but I’m essentially very clean,” he added. He also said “I don’t think I’m contagious at all” and that he is still taking dexamethasone, a steroid that can reduce fevers.
Conley has also not shared the date of Trump’s last negative test for COVID-19. The president’s doctors have also not released any details about the last time Trump had a negative test before he got sick last week.
Strategic communications director Alyssa Farah said that information was Trump’s “private medical history.”
Most people with COVID-19 can stop isolating and be around others about 10 days after they first showed symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s provided their symptoms have improved, they have not had a fever for 24 hours and are no longer on any medication to reduce a high temperature.
Trump’s doctors have suggested this week that they would work closely with military medical research facilities and other laboratories on “advanced diagnostic testing” to determine when the president was no longer contagious, but did not elaborate.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told MSNBC Thursday that two negative PCR lab tests 24 hours apart are a key factor in determining whether someone is still contagious.
“So, if the president goes 10 days without symptoms, and they do the tests that we were talking about, then you could make the assumption, based on good science, that he is not infected,” Fauci said.
Sensitive lab tests — like the PCR test — detect virus in swab samples taken from the nose and throat. Using these, the president’s medical team could hypothetically measure and track the amount of virus in samples over time — but only if tests are taken daily, according to experts.
“If they did daily testing, you could watch it go down,” Dr. William Morice, who oversees laboratories at the Mayo Clinic, told the Associated Press. “If his viral load is low, the chance he can spread the virus is low as well.”
Yet experts, including Fauci, also warn that reliable tests to determine if an infectious patient remains infectious do not exist yet.
Trump’s interviews Thursday were all held over the phone. Besides a few videos posted to Trump’s Twitter account, the president has not been seen in public since he returned to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday.
Thursday also saw Trump reject efforts to move his second debate with Joe Biden to a virtual format due to Trump’s infection. Trump and his campaign have insisted that the debate — scheduled for Oct. 15 and meant to include undecided voters asking questions in a town hall style — should be held in person.
The Trump campaign said it will hold an in-person rally on that date instead, while Biden quickly a booked a solo town hall event with ABC News.
— With files from the Associated Press