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Trump once again compares coronavirus to the flu

President Trump salutes Marine One helicopter pilots after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday night in Washington.
President Trump salutes Marine One helicopter pilots after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday night in Washington.Win McNamee/Getty

President Trump again downplayed the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, just hours after he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and even as he was still receiving aggressive treatment for the disease that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

In a tweet, Trump again compared the virus to the flu, though he has privately acknowledged it is much more deadly. He falsely stated that sometimes more than 100,000 die annually from the flu, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the number of annual deaths at from 12,000 to 61,000. He also said Americans are learning to live with COVID-19.

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Facebook removed the post from its platform, citing its policy not to allow misinformation about COVID-19. Twitter did not remove the post, but added a warning label explaining that it contained misinformation about the virus.

“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” the message said.

In an interview with reporter Bob Woodward in February, Trump himself said that it was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” He later told Woodward he was intentionally downplaying the threat of the virus to avoid a panic.

The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his doctor, Navy Commander Sean Conley, said earlier Monday that the president remains contagious and would not be fully “out of the woods” for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital. Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the US government is still being uncovered.

Still, just a month before the election and anxious to project strength, Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital, “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!” And in case anyone missed his don’t worry message earlier, he rushed out a new video from the White House.

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Conley said that because of Trump’s unusual level of treatment so early after discovery of his illness, he was in “uncharted territory.” But the doctor also was upbeat at an afternoon briefing and said the president could resume his normal schedule once “there is no evidence of live virus still present.”

According to the CDC, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.

Trump’s arrival back at the White House raised new questions about how the administration is going to protect other officials from a disease that remains rampant in the president’s body. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she had tested positive for the virus Monday morning and was entering quarantine.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.