U.S. President Donald Trump declared that catching the coronavirus was a “blessing from God” that exposed him to experimental treatments he vowed would become free for all Americans, in a video address released on Wednesday.
Trump, eager to revitalize his ailing re-election campaign two days after his release from the Walter Reed military hospital, repeatedly stressed how well he felt so far in his recovery from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. It was unclear if he was still testing positive for the virus.
“I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise,” Trump said, adding that his use of the medication from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc had allowed him to experience first-hand how effective it could be.
Trump, who has been widely criticized for a slow response to the pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans and putting his own staff at risk by discouraging the use of masks in the White House and on the campaign trail, also cited similar medication from Eli Lilly and Co.
“I want to get for you what I got. And I’m going to make it free,” Trump said, at one point calling the unapproved medicine a “cure.”
The timing of the video’s recording was unclear. Trump said in the message that he had gotten back to the White House “a day ago,” suggesting he was speaking on Tuesday. But Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the video was recorded earlier on Wednesday.
The video’s release followed White House assurances that the 74-year-old president was back at the Oval Office on Wednesday, getting briefed about economic stimulus talks and Hurricane Delta.
A White House official said Trump entered the office from the Rose Garden to avoid walking through the White House hallways and possibly exposing others to the coronavirus.
Chief of staff Mark Meadows, who briefed Trump in personal protective gear, said the White House was keeping access to the Oval Office extremely limited.
Trump had been in his residence in the White House since his dramatic made-for-video return from Walter Reed in a helicopter on Monday night.
Trump, who faces Democrat Joe Biden in the November election, has had no COVID-19 symptoms for the past 24 hours, his doctor Sean Conley said in a statement.
“He’s now been fever-free for more than four days, symptom-free for over 24 hours, and has not needed, nor received, any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization,” Conley said.