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White House doctor clears Trump for Saturday return amid debate chaos

The White House doctor did not say in its statement if the president has tested negative for the virus, or if Trump plans to test negative before attending public events.

FILED - 07 July 2017, Hamburg: US President Donald Trump attends a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Trump and his wife, First Lady Melania, have tested positive for the coronavirus and will quarantine, he wrote on Twitter early on Friday. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa.
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/File photo.

US President Donald Trump has ended his treatment regime for Covid-19 and is expected to return to public engagements on Saturday, White House doctor Sean Conley said Thursday evening.

In a statement Conley said Trump "has remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness" since he returned to the White House over the weekend.

Conley's statement did not say if the president has tested negative for the virus, or if Trump plans to test negative before attending public events.

"Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday's diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President's safe return to public engagements at that time," Conley added.

The White House announcement comes amid a day of uncertainty surrounding the second presidential debate, which was originally scheduled for October 15.

Following Trump's coronavirus diagnosis and a corresponding outbreak in the White House, the authority responsible for organizing the debate said the second debate would be held virtually out of health concerns.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump promptly dismissed any possibility of a virtual debate, calling it a "waste of time," but his campaign agreed to delay the town-hall style debate by a week and suggested pushing the third debate to October 29, just days before the election.

"Americans deserve to hear directly from both presidential candidates on these dates, October 22 and 29," campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement. He accused the media of trying to "hide" Biden.

However, Biden's team has rejected Trump's proposal, saying the president's "erratic behaviour does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing," and emphasizing that it still considered the town hall on October 22 to be the final presidential debate.

"We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years," Biden's Communications Director Kate Bedingfielde said in a statement.

Presidential debates

Presidential debates are a long-standing tradition in US politics, and it is a major development for a sitting president to pull out.

While the president says he won the first debate, surveys have indicated that most people were appalled by the tenor, and that Biden - the former vice president under Barack Obama - gained more than he lost at the event.

After Trump pulled out of the virtual debate, Biden said he is now planning on holding a solo town hall on October 15, to be hosted and moderated by broadcaster ABC News, which announced the event.

Instead of the virtual debate, the Trump campaign plans to hold a rally with the president.

In his first interview since he announced he had tested positive, Trump told Fox he felt "great" and was nearly done with all the medical treatments.

"I don't think I'm contagious at all," Trump said, despite health agency guidelines saying people in his situation should remain in isolation and may still be capable of infecting others.

He also indicated he remained on steroids, which were first administered several days ago when his oxygen levels dipped. The president has taken an experimental antibody cocktail and a five-day treatment course of a therapeutic.

Outbreak at the White House

The previous day, Trump went to the Oval Office of the White House to work and then recorded a video message in the gardens outside the presidential mansion in Washington.

There has been a coronavirus outbreak at the White House, with a dozen or so people confirmed to have tested positive. ABC News said the number was up to 34.

Poll after poll shows Trump trailing Biden at the national level, with less than a month to go until election day and with early voting already under way. The surveys indicate Trump is also poised to lose in key swing-states.

"I don't understand it. I don't believe them, I don't believe the polls," Trump said in his interview. He accused the media of being "dishonest" and said the polls are "rigged."

Trump attacked Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, twice referring to the Democratic vice presidential nominee as "this monster" and insisting the liberal from California was a "communist."

The previous evening, Harris debated Vice President Mike Pence in their only face-off.

"She wants to open up the borders to allow killers, murderers and rapists into our country," Trump said of Harris.

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