President Trump announced on Tuesday that he was planning to attend next week’s debate in Miami against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. despite his continued struggle with the coronavirus and unresolved questions about the event’s rules.
“I am looking forward to the debate on the evening of Thursday, October 15th in Miami. It will be great!” the president tweeted early Tuesday, the morning after he returned to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“FEELING GREAT!” he added in a separate tweet, hours before his physician reported that he was feeling well.
Mr. Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Over the weekend, Mr. Biden said he would follow the guidance of medical professionals and the nonpartisan commission overseeing the debate in making his plans.
But physicians who specialize in infectious diseases quickly warned that Mr. Trump’s optimism might be premature, and could reflect a false sense of security about his condition, reinforced by temporary improvements that could be reversed once he is removed from medications.
People with mild to moderate cases of the illness are likely to “remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset,” according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that period could be doubled in cases of more serious illness.
That means Mr. Trump could still be contagious, depending on the severity of his case and when his symptoms began, during the next debate, according to Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious-disease physician in South Carolina.
“We don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone in a few days,” she said.
Medical details that Mr. Trump’s doctors disclosed over the weekend — including his fluctuating oxygen levels and a decision to begin treatment with a steroid drug — suggested to many infectious-disease experts that he had a more severe case of Covid-19 than the physicians acknowledged.
He has been taking a steroid called dexamethasone — a drug known to buoy feelings of well-being, said Dr. Taison Bell, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Virginia, and patients typically need to demonstrate they can function without medication before being allowed to resume normal activities.
Should Mr. Trump’s condition continue to improve and should he be definitively cleared by physicians to participate in next week’s event, Dr. Bell added, masking and distancing will remain crucial. “They need to stick with the rules they’ve set,” he said.
If Mr. Trump is able to follow through on his promise, he faces a campaign transformed by an infection that has spread to his top aides, and stakes that have been heightened by a disruptive performance in the first debate that prompted the Commission on Presidential Debates to consider revising its procedures.
Mr. Trump had previously questioned whether he would participate if new rules,