- U.S. president endured ‘very concerning’ period on Friday.
- Trump was administered oxygen at White House, source tells AP.
- Trump had been treated at the hospital with remdesivir.
- Doctor says Trump has been fever-free for 24 hours.
U.S. President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period on Friday, and the next 48 hours “will be critical” in his care as he battles the coronavirus at a hospital, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Saturday.
Meadows’s comments contradicted the rosy assessment of Trump’s condition offered by his staff and doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.
“We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery,” said a weary Meadows.
It was a dramatically different picture from the one painted by the White House staff since Trump revealed his diagnosis, as well as by his doctors, who updated the public at a press conference at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Doctors, Nurses and ALL at the GREAT Walter Reed Medical Center, and others from likewise incredible institutions who have joined them, are AMAZING!!!Tremendous progress has been made over the last 6 months in fighting this PLAGUE. With their help, I am feeling well!
The briefing by Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley and other doctors raised more questions than it answered as Conley repeatedly refused to say whether the president ever needed supplemental oxygen, despite repeated questioning, and declined to discuss exactly when he fell ill.
Conley also revealed that Trump began exhibiting “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, earlier than previously known.
“Thursday no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Conley said.
But according to the person familiar with Trump’s condition, the president was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday before he was transported to the military hospital. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Conley said Trump’s symptoms, including a cough and nasal congestion, “are now resolving and improving,” and said the president had been fever-free for 24 hours. But Trump also is taking aspirin, which lowers body temperature and could mask or mitigate that symptom.
“He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” said another doctor, Sean Dooley.
Trump at higher risk
Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than seven million people and killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.
White House officials, including Meadows, had insisted Friday that Trump had only “mild symptoms” as they tried to project an image of normalcy.
“President Trump remains in good spirts, has mild symptoms and has been working throughout the day,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She said Trump had only been sent to Walter Reed as a precaution.
Trump’s administration has been less than transparent with the public throughout the pandemic, both about the president’s health and the spread of the virus inside the White House.
The first word that a close aide to Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. And aides have repeatedly declined to share basic health information, including a full accounting of the president’s symptoms, what tests he’s undertaken and the results.
In a memo released shortly before midnight, Conley did report that Trump had been treated at the hospital with remdesivir, an antiviral medication, after taking another experimental drug at the White House. He added that Trump is “doing very well” and is “not requiring any supplemental oxygen.”
Conley declined to say when Trump had last been tested before he was confirmed to have COVID-19 late Thursday. He initially suggested that Trump was 72 hours into the diagnosis, putting the confirmation of the infection to Wednesday. He later clarified that Trump was administered an accurate test for the virus on Thursday afternoon, after White House aide Hope Hicks was confirmed to be positive, and Trump exhibited unspecified “clinical indications” of the virus.
WATCH | New Yorkers have little sympathy for Trump:
The White House said Trump was expected to stay at the hospital for “a few days” out of an abundance of caution and that he would continue to work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties. In addition to accessibility to tests and equipment, the decision was made, at least in part, with the understanding that moving him later, if he took a turn for the worse, could send a worrying signal.
On Saturday, Conley said Trump’s blood oxygen level is 96 per cent, which is in the normal range. Trump has been treated with two experimental drugs, given through an IV, that have shown some promise against COVID-19. On Friday, he was given a single dose of a drug that’s being tested by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to supply antibodies to help his immune system fight the virus.
Friday night, Trump began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of the virus, and remdesivir curbs the virus’s ability to multiply.
“We’re maximizing all aspects of his care,” attacking the virus in multiple ways, Conley said. “I didn’t want to hold anything back if there was any possibility it would add value to his care.”
Rose Garden event under scrutiny
At the same time, the White House has been working to trace a flurry of new infections of close Trump aides and allies. Attention is focused in particular on last Saturday’s White House event introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
That day, Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands — overwhelmingly without masks. There were also several indoor receptions, where Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others spent time in the close quarters of the White House, photographs show.
Among those at the event who have now tested positive:
- Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
- Former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway.
- The president of the University of Notre Dame.
- At least two Republican lawmakers — Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.
Despite its failure to protect the president and senior staff from infection, the White House still did not appear to be taking the highly infectious disease as seriously as possible.
Meadows, the chief of staff, accompanied Trump to the hospital on Marine One, the kind of small, enclosed space where experts say the virus easily spreads.
And while Vice-President Mike Pence is currently off the campaign trail preparing for the coming week’s vice-presidential debate, he and his staff are operating under a “business as usual” approach. He’s still planning to travel to Arizona on Thursday, Indiana on Friday and Florida on Saturday for events instead of isolating himself after potential exposure and to protect himself from contracting the virus anywhere else.