President Trump on Monday returned to the White House after being discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he was sent on Friday after being diagnosed with covid-19 and experiencing a fever and was given supplemental oxygen treatments. Earlier on Monday, the president played down the threat of the virus, which has killed 209,000 people in the United States, tweeting: “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” Sean Conley, his physician, told reporters that the president will be monitored closely at the White House and that he “may not be entirely out of the woods yet.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Monday that she has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was in the key battleground state of Florida for several events, including a nationally televised town hall.

With 29 days until the election …

  • Trump’s doctor also said it was unclear when the president would no longer be able to infect others.
  • After arriving back at the White House, Trump removed his mask as he reached a balcony facing the South Lawn, and, standing maskless for over two minutes, gave a double thumbs-up and saluted the soldiers down below.
  • The Supreme Court agreed with South Carolina Republicans and reinstated a requirement that mail-in ballots have a witness’s signature. See our guide on how to vote in your state.
  • Even inside Trump’s orbit, allies worried about his Sunday evening appearance outside Walter Reed, which risked infecting two Secret Service agents who were in the armored vehicle.
  • Candidates and debate organizers are pushing ahead with in-person events despite public health concerns. The vice-presidential candidates are still scheduled to convene in Salt Lake City for their debate Wednesday, where they will be separated by plexiglass barriers.
  • Biden leads Trump by nine percentage points nationally, 51 percent to 42 percent, according to a Washington Post average of polls. Biden’s margin is smaller in key states: seven in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan; five in Arizona; and one in Florida.

Photos show staff in head-to-toe PPE cleaning press area after McEnany tests positive

2:02 a.m.
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The scene inside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on Monday evening looked more like a hot zone than the site of White House news conferences, as cleaning staff clad head-to-toe in personal protective equipment sanitized the space against the coronavirus.

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford was among those to capture images of the safety precaution, which the White House crew undertook shortly after Trump returned to the building following his hospitalization for covid-19. More than a dozen White House officials have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days — a list that on Monday grew to include press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who hosts news briefings in the now-disinfected Brady room and recently spoke to reporters without a mask.

Two other press aides have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, along with three White House reporters, including New York Times correspondent Michael D. Shear. The White House Correspondents’ Association has urged its members to stay away from the press room, fearing further virus spread.

Online, White House reporters thanked the cleaning crew.

“I am SO grateful to the custodial staff who are doing their best to keep us all safe,” tweeted NPR’s Tamara Keith.

“So grateful for these people,” wrote Kaitlan Collins of CNN. “A big thanks to the White House cleaning crew that has worked for months to keep us safe.”

Elsewhere in the White House, staffers were ramping up safety precautions to prepare for Trump’s return. Several officials cleared out ahead of time, wary of the growing case count inside the building. One told The Post that the White House is “a total ghost town.” When Trump arrived, he ascended the stairs, removed his face mask, gave a thumbs up to the assembled news cameras and then turned to walk inside.

Many Republicans continue to dismiss calls for alarm on the virus

1:37 a.m.
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Widespread Republican recalcitrance about federal health guidelines showed few signs of waning on Monday, even as the party faces growing turmoil following President Trump’s hospitalization and as more White House aides test positive for the coronavirus.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and at least two of her deputies have now contracted the virus, further derailing the functioning of a West Wing plunged into crisis and adding to a long list of top Republicans who have been infected.

But many Republicans continue to dismiss calls for alarm — and for changes to the party’s message on the virus and its operations.

White House suspends tours three weeks after restarting them

1:08 a.m.
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Three weeks after the White House Visitors Office restarted its popular program of public tours for the first time since March, it’s had to shut them down. Following the coronavirus outbreak at the historic mansion, the tours were re-suspended “all of last week and all of this week,” said Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman. “We’re reevaluating each week,” she added.

It was just at the beginning of September when Melania Trump tweeted, “I am excited to announce the safe re-opening of @WhiteHouse tours beginning on September 12!” The tours had been on temporary suspension since March 12, when Congress closed the Capitol to the public and Trump ordered the European travel ban. That temporary suspension turned into a six-month hiatus.

New safety measures were implemented for the restart, according to a news release. The schedule was reduced from five days a week to just 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and the number of guests on those tours was limited to 18 percent of normal capacity. All guests over the age of 2 were required to wear a face covering and maintain social distancing. Staff members from the National Park Service, U.S. Secret Service Officers and Visitors Office would wear face coverings and gloves. Visitors, as always, had to write to their member of Congress to request a spot on a tour.

The indoor tours were soon followed by an announcement from the Office of the First Lady that the White House would be hosting the public on its grounds for two days of free ticketed garden tours, on Oct. 17 and 18. On the itinerary was the Rose Garden, which Melania Trump renovated in August and which was the site of the event nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Grisham did not respond to a Monday night inquiry about whether the tours would continue as scheduled.

Biden says a president should be transparent about health, but it’s not an ‘absolute requirement’

12:50 a.m.
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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addressed voters at an NBC town hall in Miami on Oct. 5. (The Washington Post)

Biden said there were certain circumstances in which a president could withhold personal health information, as a way to protect national security.

Biden, who would be the oldest president in American history, said that he would be transparent about his own health but that there could be times when not all information would be released.

“There can be certain circumstances relating to national security where every detail would not be made available in the middle of a particular crisis,” Biden said.

“The overall question of whether or not I’d be transparent about whether or not I have a serious problem or what treatment I got, yes,” he added. “But sometimes for a president, that would come after the fact.”

He declined to criticize Trump for the evasive nature in which his physicians have handled questions about his health and treatment for the coronavirus.

“I’m not being critical of the fact that every single detail was not released,” he said. “There is the HIPAA rules that even apply to the president, but they have consequences for a president beyond the rules relating to what is able to be done and not done without a patient’s permission. They have national security implications as well.”

Biden referred to Ronald Reagan being shot during his presidency.

“He was transparent, but they didn’t go into every single detail precisely,” Biden said. “I think, on balance, you have to tell the whole truth, what had happened, what was happening and what’s going on. But as moment to moment, I’m not sure that that is an absolute requirement.”

Supreme Court sides with S.C. Republicans, orders reinstatement of witness requirement for mail-in ballots

12:49 a.m.
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The Supreme Court Monday night agreed with South Carolina Republicans and reinstated a requirement that mail-in ballots have a witness’s signature, something federal courts had said was not needed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The court made one concession, saying those ballots already sent in without a witness should be counted. Tens of thousands of ballots have been sent to voters across the state.

The court’s brief order did not list any objecting justices. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the request in full, without making exceptions for the ballots already cast.

Despite experts’ uncertainty on whether patients develop immunity, Trump claims he may now be ‘immune’

12:38 a.m.
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President Trump on Oct. 5 offered a video update from the White House following his three-day stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (@realDonaldTrump/Twitter)

Public health experts are still uncertain whether patients who have recovered from covid-19 develop immunity to the disease. But even so, Trump — who was diagnosed less than four days ago — claimed Monday that he may already be “immune” to the virus.

In a video filmed on a White House balcony shortly after he was discharged from Walter Reed, Trump repeated his call for Americans not to let the coronavirus “dominate your lives."

“We’re going back,” Trump said in the video. “We’re going back to work. We’re going to be out front. As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there was danger to it, but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s okay. And now I’m better. And maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.”

Trump also declared that “the vaccines are coming momentarily,” even though experts within his administration have projected that a vaccine will not be widely available until late spring or summer of next year.

The president said he “learned so much” about the virus during his hospital stay. He urged Americans, “Don’t be afraid of it.”

“I didn’t feel so good,” Trump said. “And two days ago — I could have left two days ago — two days ago, I felt great. Like, better than I have in a long time. I said just recently, better than 20 years ago. Don’t let it dominate. Don’t let it take over your lives. Don’t let that happen.”

Biden says he would mandate masks and social distancing, criticizing Trump’s latest messages

12:24 a.m.
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In an NBC town hall in Miami, Joe Biden said he would mandate masks and social distancing as part of a federal response to combat the coronavirus if elected president. He also criticized President Trump for his cavalier tweets and remarks about the virus since leaving the hospital Monday evening.

“I would hope the president, having gone through what he went through — and I’m glad he seems to be coming along pretty well — would communicate the right lesson to the American people: Masks matter. These masks, they matter. It matters. It saves lives. It prevents the spread of disease,” Biden said.

He knocked Trump’s tweet saying people should not be concerned about the coronavirus.

“There’s a lot to be concerned about. 210,000 people have died," Biden said. "I hope no one walks away with the message thinking that it’s not a problem. It’s a serious problem. It’s an international pandemic and we have 4 percent of the population and 20 percent of the deaths.”

Biden said that, beyond his power of implementing mandates in federal buildings, he would call the governors and urge them to implement statewide mask mandates.

“This is a national responsibility. The federal government has an obligation to lay out basic guidelines,” Biden said.

The Democratic presidential candidate also said he was not concerned about contracting the coronavirus even after sharing a stage with Trump last Tuesday for a prolonged period of time.

“I’ve been fastidious about the social distancing,” said Biden, who told host Lester Holt that he and Trump “never got closer than you and I are right now.” He said it was “a little disconcerting” to look out and see Trump’s entourage largely unmasked in the audience.

Republicans face major head winds in final stretch to maintain Senate majority

11:43 p.m.
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Republicans are facing major head winds in their bid to maintain control of the Senate, a troubling outlook for the party roiled by news of President Trump and three GOP senators contracting the coronavirus four weeks before the election.

In a tumultuous year marked by a pandemic that has killed nearly 210,000 Americans and civil unrest, Republicans saw the fight over a Supreme Court vacancy as a chance to boost their political fortunes. Court fights typically rally the GOP base, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) encouraged Trump to move quickly to select a conservative nominee to galvanize voters.

But the GOP’s predicted Supreme Court bump has yet to materialize. And the party is now facing down a new level of uncertainty as the coronavirus spreads in GOP circles in Washington, with Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) testing positive.

In California, early voting draws those worried about the mail

11:22 p.m.
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In California, all voters are being sent mail ballots this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the first day of in-person early voting drew a steady trickle of people Monday to the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in Oakland, where they were let in a few at a time. As they lined up six feet apart, greeted by poll workers in face shields, these voters said they did not want to take the chance of sending their vote through the mail.

“With all that is happening with the Postal Service — I personally am getting delayed mail — I just want to make sure my vote counts,” said Amanne Sharif, 34, a communications director for a beauty company, who said she was voting Democratic all the way down the ticket. “I’m coming to vote in person so I can have peace of mind.”

Sharif said she felt that the 2020 election was the most important of her lifetime. “I carry many labels that are threatened by this administration,” she said. “I’m Palestinian, Muslim, a woman, I don’t come from wealth. … The policies of this administration will affect my family for many years to come.”

Joyce Rubenstein, a 76-year-old retired librarian, said she was voting for Biden and Harris because “they are going to bring dignity to the presidency, they are going to be stable, and push on all of the things that are important to me.” Rubenstein, who called herself a “flaming liberal” like many Bay Area locals, said she was most concerned about the Trump administration attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. “I am just heartbroken by what is going on in our country,” she said.

Lenny Wharton, a 65-year-old retired welder, biked by the station to pick up a ballot. He said he didn’t care much for politics and would be voting for the first time because he didn’t like Trump. “I’ve never seen a president act this way before. He is a bully.”

Trump returns to White House from Walter Reed hospital, takes off mask to pose for photos

11:13 p.m.
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Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center early Monday evening and arrived back at the White House after being diagnosed last week with covid-19, experiencing a fever and being given supplemental oxygen treatments.

As he left Walter Reed, Trump gave a thumbs up to reporters and ignored questions about how many White House staff members are sick and whether he is a “superspreader.”

“Thank you very much, everybody,” Trump said, giving a slight wave before heading into his motorcade and taking off for the White House in Marine One.

After arriving back at the White House, Trump stood on a balcony facing the South Lawn, took off his mask, gave a double thumbs-up and saluted the soldiers down below. He then stood at the balcony for a few minutes before entering the White House.

Several medical experts expressed surprise that Trump was not kept in the hospital longer.

Shortly before leaving the hospital, Trump tweeted, “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!” Earlier in the day, when Trump announced that he would be discharged, he tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

The disease has killed more than 209,000 Americans.

McConnell says Barrett hearings are still ‘full steam ahead’ despite senators testing positive

10:55 p.m.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett are still “full steam ahead” despite at least two key lawmakers testing positive for the coronavirus.

McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a speech on the Senate floor that Democrats’ efforts to postpone the Oct. 12 confirmation hearings are simply “stalling tactics.”

“Senate Democrats have openly admitted they are grasping at straws to block this exceedingly well-qualified nominee from receiving a fair and prompt process,” McConnell said, adding that the Senate “will not cease to function just because Democrats are afraid they may lose a vote.”

Democrats have cited the safety of senators, aides and Barrett herself as key reasons to delay the process after at least two Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee tested positive, with fears more could follow.

McConnell said that he spoke to Trump twice during the president’s hospital stay, discussing Barrett’s nomination process and the pandemic. The majority leader also urged the country to “remain vigilant” about the virus — a warning that contrasted with a Trump tweet Monday in which he advised, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”

“More than 209,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives,” McConnell said. “Millions have battled illness or had their lives disrupted by positive tests.”

Analysis: A sexting scandal in the N.C. Senate race was the last thing Democrats need

10:12 p.m.
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It’s tough to predict what political impact the news that North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham had been sending intimate texts to a woman who isn’t his wife will have on the competitive Senate race there. It’s undeniably bad for him, although partisanship can be a strong motivator to keep voters with their respective candidates.

The broader impact on the battle for the Senate is more clear: It’s one of the worst possible races for this to happen in for Democrats. North Carolina had been shaping up as one of their best chances to clinch the Senate majority next year. And they will need the Senate to accomplish much of anything if they win the White House next year.

Scalia’s son apologizes for not wearing mask at White House ceremony

9:59 p.m.
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The Rev. Paul Scalia, a Virginia Catholic priest and son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, issued an apology to his parish Sunday for neither social distancing nor wearing a mask at a Rose Garden ceremony last month honoring Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Multiple attendees at the Sept. 26 event at the White House, including President Trump, have tested positive for the coronavirus, and several have been hospitalized.

“Since the pandemic began it has been my desire to ease people’s fears and anxieties. My actions at the White House seemed reasonable at the time given the presumed controls in place,” reads Scalia’s note to St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church.

It said all attendees were immediately given a rapid coronavirus test upon arrival at the White House and then, if their test was negative, told they could remove their mask and were ushered to the ceremony.

“I apologize that they did not follow my own expectations, caused disquiet and anxiety, and have distracted from the work of the Gospel,” he wrote.

In the parish newsletter the week before, Scalia wrote that it “remains my expectation that anyone coming to Mass at Saint James, wear a mask (no different from the airport or any store. This is the Bishop’s expectation as well.).”

In the letter to his parish, Scalia notes that Judge Barrett was one of his father’s clerks years ago “and remains a friend of the family.”

Scalia said in the letter that the lack of standard precautions at the event “has become a legitimate cause of concern.” More immediate to the parish, he wrote, it contradicts what he has been telling his congregants, and some have reached out with concern, Scalia wrote.

On the recommendation of his own physician and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “guidelines,” Scalia said he’ll remain in quarantine until Friday.

D.C. coronavirus testing surges after news of outbreak at White House

9:50 p.m.
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President Trump’s doctors said he has taken an antiviral drug, an antibody cocktail, a steroid and other supplements. A toxicology expert explains. (The Washington Post)

The number of D.C. residents seeking free coronavirus tests from the city surged Monday against the backdrop of the burgeoning outbreak at the White House.

The city’s primary testing center at Judiciary Square on F Street NW conducted about 575 tests before its daily closing at 1 p.m., up from a daily average of about 400 in recent weeks, city officials said. Another site in Anacostia conducted about 440, up from an average of 300, the officials said.

One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the data, suggested that the spike could be due to heightened awareness after media coverage of the White House outbreak.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that she has tested positive, joining the president and first lady, as well as numerous other aides known since last week to have contracted the virus.

But the rise in people seeking tests in the city also could partially be attributed to residents fearing that they had come in contact with White House officials, members of Congress or others who have tested positive. In addition to Trump aides, several GOP lawmakers as well as Trump allies, including former adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), said they have the virus. Two members of the White House housekeeping staff are said to have tested positive, according to the New York Times, raising fears that the virus has spread widely through the building.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said her administration has offered help to the White House on contact tracing but otherwise has had little contact with federal leaders.

The frustration of some local residents was evident on Twitter, where one user responded to a tweet from Bowser promoting coronavirus testing locations by warning that the city has “a major Covid hot spot … radiating from the White House … DC workers are exposed.”