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