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Trump Plans To Resume Public Activities With South Lawn Appearance

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump plans to resume public activities today with a rally on the South Lawn of the White House. In an interview last night on Fox News, the president said he feels well.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I feel really, really strong. And a lot of people don't feel that way sometimes for a while afterwards, but very good.

SIMON: We're joined now by NPR science correspondent Rob Stein. Rob, thanks for being with us.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Morning, Scott.

SIMON: The president spoke virtually with a doctor last night on Fox News. Did we learn anything new about his condition?

STEIN: Well, the president said he was no longer taking any medication and that a scan of his lungs when he was hospitalized had spotted what he called congestion. Now, that might possibly indicate he had pneumonia, but it's really impossible to know without more information. And, you know, that's been the problem all along. The White House has been releasing very few details about the president's condition.

SIMON: And the president holds an event at the White House today. There are also plans to address a rally in Florida on Monday night. Medically, is this a wise idea?

STEIN: So the doctors that I've been talking to say that he may be doing well and hopefully past that crucial point when some people can take a turn for the worse. But it's hard to really know without more information. I talked about this with Rochelle Walensky. She's chief of infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: The thing to really note is this is a 74-year-old gentleman who just had a hospitalizing disease, perhaps a hospitalizing viral pneumonia, and sort of being out and about on the campaign trail may, in fact, not be the best thing for him.

STEIN: And, you know, not just for him. There's a big question about whether he might still be contagious.

SIMON: Well, let's talk about that. What do we know about whether President Trump may still be able to spread the virus?

STEIN: Well, you know, during last night's interview, Trump mentioned getting tested, but the White House didn't release any results. And the CDC recommends people remain isolated for at least 10 days after they get COVID. But it's unclear when the clock started ticking for the president. He may just be about to hit that 10-day mark or close to it, but today looks like it would be pushing it even under the best scenario. I talked about this with Eric Topol. He runs the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

ERIC TOPOL: He'd have to be considered still infectious until proven otherwise. Why is he bringing, you know, a large group of people together? We've seen how that works. They come together. They don't have masks. And typically, as we saw with the Rose Garden event, there's also, you know, indoor events. You know, we already had a superspreader event at the White House not long ago, and we don't want to recreate the crime.

STEIN: Topol says the steroid the president was taking could make him contagious for longer than those 10 days. And the CDC recommends 20 days of isolation for people with more serious cases, which the president may very well have had.

SIMON: Rob, a related matter, The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reports at the White House blocked the CDC from requiring passengers and employees to wear masks on all buses, trains and aircraft. What can you tell us about this?

STEIN: Well, my colleague Selena Simmons-Duffin has confirmed this. A former administration official who's familiar with these discussions tells her, yes, the White House has been blocking the CDC effort for months. The official asked not to be identified while discussing internal administration matters. But, you know, this is just the latest example of political interference in CDC decisions, from guidance on who needs to get tested to how schools could safely reopen. And public health experts say this has really undermined the CDC at a time when the nation really needs the agency to fight the pandemic.

SIMON: NPR health correspondent Rob Stein, thanks so much.

STEIN: You bet, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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