BETHESDA, Md. (AP) – President Donald Trump was hoping for a discharge from the military hospital where he was being treated for COVID-19 the day after briefly venturing out while contagious to cheering supporters of the Welcome Motorcade Failed precautions believed to contain the deadly virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans.
White House officials said Trump was eager to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where doctors announced on Sunday that his blood oxygen levels had suddenly dropped twice in the past few days and that they had given him a steroid That is usually only recommended for the highly recommended people sick. Even so, doctors said Trump̵
“This is an important day as the president continues to improve and is ready to return to a normal work schedule,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News Monday. He said the decision on whether or not Trump would leave the hospital would not be made until later in the day after the president was assessed by his medical team, but Trump was “optimistic” that he could be released on Monday.
Less than a month until election day, Trump was eager to develop strength despite his illness. The still contagious president surprised supporters who had gathered in front of the hospital and drove by in a black SUV with the windows up. Intelligence agents in the vehicle were seen in masks and other protective equipment.
The move crowned a weekend of contradictions that fueled confusion over Trump’s health, threatening the leadership of the US administration and upsetting the final stages of the presidential campaign. While Trump’s doctor gave a rosy outlook for his condition, his information lacked basic information, including results from lung scans, or was quickly confused by more serious assessments of the president’s health by other officials.
In a short video released by the White House on Sunday, Trump insisted on understanding the gravity of the moment. But his actions moments later, as he walked out of the hospital and sat in the SUV with others, suggested otherwise.
“This is insane,” said Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed, who criticizes Trump and his handling of the pandemic. “Every single person in the vehicle has to be quarantined for 14 days during this completely unnecessary drive by the President. You could get sick. You can die. “
“For political theater,” added the doctor. “Ordered by Trump to endanger your life for the theater.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump’s trip outside of the hospital was “considered safe by the medical team.” He added that precautions have been taken, including the use of personal protective equipment, to protect Trump as well as White House officials and intelligence agents.
Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, said the Democratic presidential candidate tested negative for coronavirus again on Sunday. The results come five days after Biden spent more than 90 minutes in the debate with Trump. Biden, who has been far more cautious about personal events, had two negative tests on Friday.
For his part, Trump still faces questions about his health.
His doctors avoided questions on Sunday about when exactly Trump’s blood oxygen fell – an episode they failed to mention in several statements the day before – or whether lung scans showed damage.
It was the second day in a row that a White House already suffering from a credibility crisis was veiled. And there was more doubt as to whether the doctors treating the president were providing the American public with accurate and timely information about the severity of his condition.
Pushed for conflicting information he and the White House released on Saturday, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley admitted he’d tried to come up with a sunnier description of the president’s condition.
“I tried to reflect the optimistic attitude of the team, the president, about the course of his illness. I didn’t want to give any information that could steer the disease course in any other direction, ”said Conley. “And it turned out that we were trying to hide something that wasn’t necessarily true. The fact is, he’s really fine. “
Medical experts said Conley’s revelations were difficult to reconcile with his positive assessment and talk of a discharge.
“There’s a bit of a break,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, Senior Medical and Research Associate, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
It wasn’t clear how long Trump’s recovery would take at the White House if he was fired.
According to CDC guidelines, “Transport and movement of a patient suspected or confirmed of SARS-CoV-2 infection outside of their room should generally be restricted to medically essential purposes.”
Even before Trump’s motorcade on Sunday, some intelligence agents have voiced their concerns about the lack of attitudes towards masks and social distancing in the White House, but there is little they can do, according to agents and officials who spoke to The Associated Press. So close to the election, there are thousands of security agents busy so they can be quickly weeded out if anyone tests positive.
The information on Trump’s oxygen levels and steroid treatment suggested the president could endure more than just one mild case of COVID-19.
Blood oxygen saturation is an important health indicator for COVID-19 patients. A normal value is between 95 and 100. Conley said the president had a “high fever” and blood oxygen levels below 94% on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday.
He was evasive about the timing of Trump’s oxygen drops. (“It was during the day, yes, yesterday morning,” he said) and asked if Trump’s level had dropped below 90% for the area in question. (“We have no record of it here.”) But he revealed that Trump was given a dose of the steroid dexamethasone in response.
At the time of the briefing, Trump’s blood oxygen level was 98% – within normal anger, Trump’s medical team said.
Signs of pneumonia or other lung damage could be seen on scans before a patient felt short of breath, but the president’s doctors declined to say what those scans found.
“There are some expected results, but nothing of greater clinical significance,” Conley said. He declined to outline these “expected results”.
When asked about Conley’s lack of transparency, White House aide Alyssa Farah suggested that doctors speak to both the president and the American public: “When you’re treating a patient, you want to instill confidence, lift their spirits and that was the intention. “
In total, nearly 7.4 million people are infected in the U.S., and few have access to the kind of attention and 24-hour experimental treatments that Trump does.
Trump’s treatment with the steroid dexamethasone is in addition to the single dose he received on Friday of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that provides antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus. Trump also began a five-day course on Remdesivir, a drug from Gilead Sciences currently used in moderately and critically ill patients, on Friday. The drugs work in different ways – the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of viruses, and remdesivir blocks the virus’ ability to multiply.
Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary criticism, said the president had shown no side effects from the drugs “that we can see”.
The National Institutes of Health’s COVID-19 treatment guidelines recommend not using dexamethasone in patients who do not require oxygen. It has only been found to be helpful in more severe cases. One of the concerns with previous use is that steroids suppress certain immune cells and impair the body’s ability to fight off infection.
Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, which puts him at higher risk of serious complications.
First Lady Melania Trump has stayed at the White House as she recovers from her own battle with the virus.
Several White House officials this weekend expressed frustration at the level of transparency and disclosure since the president announced his diagnosis early Friday.
They were particularly upset about the whiplash between Conley’s optimistic assessment on Saturday and the more concerned outlook from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. They privately acknowledge that the government has little credibility regarding COVID-19 and that they have unnecessarily squandered what is left of it due to the lack of clear, accurate updates on Trump’s condition.
Many in the White House are also shaken and scared – nervous that they have been exposed to the virus and face the reality that what appears to be a security bubble has become a COVID-19 hotspot. It was not until late Sunday for the White House to send a general message to staff advising them not to come into the building if they are not comfortable.
People reported from New York. Miller reported from Washington. Contributors to this report were associate press writers Lauran Neergaard, Jonathan Lemire and Aamer Madhani in Washington, and Bill Barrow in Wilmington, Delaware, and Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee.