President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate committee to investigate origin of, response to coronavirus pandemic Amash teases possibility of third-party presidential bid Overnight Health Care: Trump fires back at critics during briefing | Trump claims he has authority on when to reopen states | Governors form groups to discuss plans | Fauci offers support to Trump | House delays return MORE on Tuesday met with eight people who have recovered after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, including a Michigan state lawmaker who says her condition improved after taking an anti-malaria drug the president has touted as a potential cure.
The eight attendees came to the White House from California, Michigan and Arkansas, and the White House arranged their travel to Washington, D.C., according to an administration official. Federal social distancing guidelines urge Americans to avoid discretionary travel.
Among the guests was Karen Whitsett, a Democratic state representative who has expressed gratitude to Trump after she said taking hydroxychloroquine aided her recovery. The president has repeatedly urged patients to take the anti-malaria drug as a potential remedy for the virus, despite health experts warning that there is limited data to prove its effectiveness.
“Had you not brought this to the forefront … I wouldn’t be here today even having this conversation with you and being able to talk about the needs of Detroit,” Whitsett said.
The state lawmaker described the ongoing fight against the virus in Michigan, saying she knew people with the disease who had difficulty getting into a hospital. She also urged officials to make hydroxychloroquine more readily available.
“I don’t see her voting for Sleepy Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrat-backed candidate wins Wisconsin Supreme Court race Trump uses coronavirus briefing to fire back at critics Biden beats Sanders in Wisconsin primary MORE,” Trump quipped at one point Tuesday, mocking the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. “I’m not gonna ask her that question. If she votes for Sleepy Joe I’d be surprised.”
Each of the attendees took a coronavirus test before meeting with Trump in the Cabinet Room, as has become standard for all White House guests who are in proximity to the president or vice president.
One woman who attended the meeting said she tested negative for the virus five days ago, adding that she felt she was about 85 percent recovered.
“Stay away from me, please,” Trump interjected, prompting laughter from the room.
The president seemed particularly curious about each person’s symptoms and experience when they had the virus.
One man said he was aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship when he learned he had the virus, though he did not think he contracted the disease while on the boat. The man described having a fever of 103 degrees one day and struggling to walk around a room while talking on the phone without being short of breath.
Darshin Patel, a California resident who was part of the roundtable, told Trump one source of frustration was that he had difficulty getting a test in early March when he was showing symptoms.
“How did you compare this to the flu?” Trump asked.
“Never felt these symptoms before for this long,” Patel replied.
“So a bigger, better, much worse event for you,” Trump said.
The president has drawn criticism for downplaying the coronavirus for much of January and February, including comparing its seriousness to the seasonal influenza.
He had previously urged Americans to think of the coronavirus “like the flu,” and compared the initial death tolls from the coronavirus to the thousands who die each year from influenza.
There were more than 584,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. as of mid-day Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and roughly 24,000 people in the country had died of the virus.