Next 48 hours crit­i­cal in Trump’s fight with COVID-19

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JONATHAN LEMIRE, JILL COLVIN AND ZEKE MILLER

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump faces a “crit­i­cal” next two days in his fight against COVID-19 at a mil­i­tary hospi­tal, his chief of staff said Satur­day, also re­veal­ing that Trump went through a “very con­cern­ing” pe­riod Fri­day while of­fi­cials were giv­ing calm, up­beat re­ports.

“We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full re­cov­ery,” said Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows out­side the Wal­ter Reed Na­tional Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

His com­ments were in sharp con­trast to the rosy assess­ment of­fered mo­ments ear­lier by Trump’s doc­tors, who took pains not to re­veal that the pres­i­dent had re­ceived sup­ple­men­tal oxy­gen at the White House be­fore be­ing flown by he­li­copter to the hospi­tal.

The chang­ing, and at times con­tra­dic­tory ac­counts, cre­ated a clear cred­i­bil­ity prob­lem for the White House at a cru­cial mo­ment, with the pres­i­dent’s health and the na­tion’s lead­er­ship on the line. With Trump ex­pected to re­main hos­pi­tal­ized sev­eral more days and the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion loom­ing, his con­di­tion is be­ing anx­iously watched by Amer­i­cans – and fol­lowed closely by for­eign lead­ers, friendly and oth­er­wise.

Satur­day’s 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 share key de­tails, in­clud­ing Trump’s fever tem­per­a­ture.

Con­ley also re­vealed that Trump be­gan ex­hibit­ing “clin­i­cal in­di­ca­tions” of COVID-19 on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, ear­lier than pre­vi­ously known.

Con­ley spent much of the brief­ing dodg­ing re­porters’ ques­tions, as he was pressed for de­tails.

“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 a per­son fa­mil­iar with Trump’s con­di­tion, he was ad­min­is­tered oxy­gen at the White House on Fri­day be­fore he was transporte­d to the mil­i­tary hospi­tal by he­li­copter. The per­son was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly and spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press only on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Con­ley said Trump’s symp­toms, in­clud­ing a mild cough, nasal con­ges­tion and fa­tigue “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, who said Trump’s heart, kid­ney and liver func­tions were nor­mal and that he was not hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing or walk­ing around.

Trump is 74 years old and clin­i­cally obese, putting him at higher risk of se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions from a virus that has in­fected more than 7.3 mil­lion peo­ple na­tion­wide and killed more than 208,000 peo­ple in the U.S.

Also in the hospi­tal with a coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion Satur­day was for­mer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had helped the pres­i­dent prep for the Tues­day de­bate in Cleve­land.

Christie said he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mild symp­toms but be­cause of his his­tory of asthma, he and his doc­tors “de­cided this is an im­por­tant pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure.”

Trump’s administra­tion has been less than trans­par­ent with the pub­lic through­out the pan­demic, both about the pres­i­dent’s health and the virus’ spread 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 late Fri­day, Con­ley did re­port that Trump had been treated at the hospi­tal with remde­sivir, an an­tivi­ral med­i­ca­tion, af­ter shar­ing that he’d taken an­other ex­per­i­men­tal drug at the White House.

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 – which would mean that he was con­firmed in­fected Wed­nes­day. Con­ley later clar­i­fied that Trump was ad­min­is­tered an ac­cu­rate test for the virus Thurs­day af­ter­noon, af­ter White House aide Hope Hicks was con­firmed to be pos­i­tive and Trump ex­hib­ited “clin­i­cal in­di­ca­tions” of the virus.

The White House has said Trump was ex­pected to stay at the hospi­tal for “a few days” and would con­tinue to work from its pres­i­den­tial suite, which is equipped to al­low him to keep up his of­fi­cial du­ties.

Con­ley noted that in many cases, COVID-19 can be­come more dan­ger­ous as the body re­sponds.

“The first week of COVID, and in par­tic­u­lar day seven to 10, are the most crit­i­cal in de­ter­min­ing the likely course of this ill­ness,” he said.

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 who at­tended and have now tested pos­i­tive: Christie, White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way, the pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Notre Dame, and at least two Repub­li­can law­mak­ers – Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Til­lis.

The pres­i­dent’s cam­paign man­ager, Bill Stepien, and the head of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, Ronna McDaniel, have also tested pos­i­tive, though they were not at the event.

De­spite its fail­ure to pro­tect the pres­i­dent and se­nior staff from in­fec­tion, the White House has given no in­di­ca­tion that it in­tends to make any ma­jor pro­to­col changes, such as man­dat­ing that ev­ery­one wears a mask.

Mead­ows, the chief of staff, ac­com­pa­nied the pres­i­dent to the hospi­tal aboard Marine One, the kind of small, en­closed space where ex­perts say the virus eas­ily spreads. Those aboard did wear masks.

While Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence is 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.

SU­SAN WALSH AP

Dr. Sean Con­ley, physi­cian to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, briefs re­porters at Wal­ter Reed Na­tional Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Bethesda, Md., on Satur­day. Trump was ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal Fri­day af­ter con­tract­ing the coro­n­avirus.

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