President Trump, eager to prove he is healthy and energetic despite his recent hospitalization for Covid-19, returned to the campaign trail on Monday night in Florida, telling supporters he was fully recovered and therefore immune to the coronavirus — a claim for which there is no conclusive scientific backing.
Onstage at a hangar at the Orlando Sanford International Airport, Mr. Trump said he felt “so powerful” and offered to wade into the crowd.
“I’ll kiss everyone in that audience,” he said. “I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Just give you a big fat kiss.”
The president spoke for about an hour. Many supporters in the crowd did not wear masks, including some of those chosen to stand behind the president’s lectern and within the camera shot.
Mr. Trump claimed that vaccines against the virus “are going to be distributed very shortly,” although the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved one. The president also implied without evidence that the agency was deliberately holding back on vaccine approvals to hurt his chances of re-election. (Read a fact check of Mr. Trump’s claims on Monday here.)
“Frankly, it’s a big political deal going on where they don’t want it to be before the election,” the president said.
Mr. Trump, whose response to a pandemic that has killed more than 214,000 Americans remains the biggest threat to his re-election, also claimed without evidence that his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., would delay the vaccine and “prolong the pandemic.”
Mr. Trump’s arrival in Florida took place only hours after the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, said the president had tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid coronavirus test not intended for that purpose.
With three weeks left in the race, Mr. Trump is running behind Mr. Biden. His polling numbers with seniors, a crucial constituency that has been disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus, have been flagging.
Hours before Monday’s rally, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned that holding large rallies was “asking for trouble” with cases of the virus surging in many states.
Dr. Fauci, in an interview with CNN, said that Americans needed to be more cautious in the fall and winter months, and warned that rising rates of infections in a number of states suggested Americans should be “doubling down” on precautions rather than casting them aside.