- President Donald Trump, said to be making progress in his recovery from COVID-19, tweeted his eagerness to return to the campaign trail Tuesday.
- The president returned to the White House Monday evening after spending three days at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he was being treated for COVID-19 since Friday.
- In a video posted Monday evening, Trump told the nation not to let the virus dominate their lives, saying "you're going to beat it."
- Trump briefly left the hospital Sunday in his car to wave to supporters gathered outside.
- Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley offered new details Sunday about Trump's condition before he was hospitalized, saying the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94% before being taken to Walter Reed Medical Center.
- Trump gave an update on his health in 1-minute video Sunday afternoon, talking about his COVID-recovery journey.
President Donald Trump, said to be making progress in his recovery from COVID-19, tweeted his eagerness to return to the campaign trail Tuesday even as the outbreak that has killed more than 210,000 Americans reached ever more widely into the upper echelons of the U.S. government.
As Trump convalesced out of sight in the White House, the administration defended the protections it has put in place to protect the staff working there to treat and support him. Trump again publicly played down the virus on Twitter after his return from a three-day hospitalization, though even more aides tested positive, including one of his closest advisers, Stephen Miller.
In one significant national coronavirus action, Trump declared there would be no action before the election on economic-stimulus legislation — an announcement that came not long after the Federal Reserve chairman said such help was essential for recovery with the nation reeling from the human and economic cost of the pandemic. Stocks fell on the White House news.
As for Trump's own recovery, his doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said in a letter that the president had a “restful” Monday night at the White House and “reports no symptoms.”
Meanwhile, Trump was grappling with next political steps exactly four weeks from Election Day. Anxious to project strength, Trump, who is still contagious with the virus, tweeted Tuesday that he was planning to attend next week's debate with Democrat Joe Biden in Miami and "It will be great!”
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.
Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”
Elsewhere in the government, the scope of the outbreak was still being uncovered. On Tuesday, the nation’s top military leaders including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and the vice chairman, Gen. John Hyten, were in quarantine after exposure to Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard.
It was not known how Ray contracted the virus, but he attended an event for military families at the White House on Sept. 27. The Coast Guard said in a statement that Ray felt mild symptoms over the weekend and was tested on Monday.
On Monday evening, stepping gingerly, Trump walked out the military hospital where he has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19, immediately igniting a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
Back at the White House, he climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the occasion.
Later that same evening, he posted a video to social media maskless and likely still contagious, telling Americans not to fear the virus and to not let it dominate their lives.
"We have the best medical equipment," he said with the Washington Monument visible in the background, "we have the best medicines, all developed recently."
Minutes earlier, the president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a waiting SUV that carried him to Marine One for the short helicopter flight back to the White House.
Trump’s doctor, Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, said the president would not be fully “out of the woods” for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital. Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the U.S. government is still being uncovered.
Still Trump, who remains contagious, indicated he won’t be kept from campaigning for long, tweeting before leaving the hospital, “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!”
Trump made a point of sounding confident earlier. He tweeted, “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. ... I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
Conley said that because of Trump’s unusual level of treatment so early after discovery of his illness he was in “uncharted territory.” But the doctor also was upbeat at an afternoon briefing and said the president could resume his normal schedule once “there is no evidence of live virus still present.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.
Trump’s discharge raised new questions about how the administration was going to protect other officials from a disease that remains rampant in the president’s body. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she had tested positive for the virus Monday morning and was entering quarantine.
Experts expressed fear Trump won’t properly stay isolated at the White House -- and that he hasn’t learned his lesson about wearing a mask.
“We know he hates the mask, we know he hates to be restricted, we know he’s unpredictable,” said Dr. David Nace of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “The rest of the American people are held accountable to a 10-day isolation period.”
There were also lingering questions about potential long term effects to the president — and even when he first came down with the virus
Conley repeatedly declined to share results of medical scans of Trump’s lungs, saying he was not at liberty to discuss the information because Trump did not waive doctor-patient confidentiality on the subject. COVID-19 has been known to cause significant damage to the lungs of some patients. Conley also declined to share the date of Trump’s most recent negative test for the virus — a critical point for contact tracing and understanding where Trump was in the course of the disease.
Trump’s nonchalant message about not fearing the virus comes as his own administration has encouraged Americans to be very careful and take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease as cases continue to spike across the country. For more than eight months, Trump’s efforts to play down the threat of the virus in hopes of propping up the economy ahead of the election have drawn bipartisan criticism.
Only a day earlier, Trump suggested he had finally grasped the true nature of the virus, saying in a video, “I get it.” But then on Sunday afternoon, Trump briefly ventured out of the hospital while contagious to salute cheering supporters by motorcade — an outing that disregarded precautions meant to contain the virus.
White House officials said Trump was anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where doctors revealed that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick.
Trump’s experience with the disease has been dramatically different from most Americans, who do not have access to the same kind of monitoring and care. While most must cope with their symptoms — and fear of whether they’ll take a turn for the worse — at home and alone, Trump has been staying in the presidential suite of one of the nation’s best hospitals and has been given experimental drugs not readily available to the public. He returns to the White House where there is a team of doctors on call with 24-hour monitoring.
Trump was leaving the hospital after receiving a fourth dose of the antiviral drug remdesivir Monday evening, Conley said. He will receive the fifth and final dose Tuesday at the White House.
Less than one month before Election Day, Trump was eager to project strength despite his illness and to press his campaign effort across the country.
Trump's brief departure from the hospital on Sunday to wave at supporters capped a weekend of contradictions that fueled confusion about Trump’s health, which has imperiled the leadership of the U.S. government and upended the final stages of the presidential campaign. While Trump’s physician offered a rosy prognosis on his condition, his briefings lacked basic information, including the findings of lung scans, or were quickly muddled 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 he understood the gravity of the moment. But his actions moments later, by leaving the hospital and sitting inside the SUV with others, suggested otherwise.
“This is insanity,” tweeted Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed who has often criticized Trump and his handling of the pandemic. “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump’s trip outside the hospital “was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.” He added that precautions were taken, including using personal protective equipment, to protect Trump as well as White House officials and Secret Service agents.
Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, said the Democratic presidential nominee again tested negative for coronavirus Sunday. The results come five days after Biden spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Trump. Biden, who has taken a far more cautious approach to in-person events, had two negative tests on Friday. Biden's campaign has promised to reveal the results of every test the candidate takes.
In a tweet Friday morning, Biden said he and his wife “send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”
Trump still faces questions about his health.
His doctors sidestepped questions on Sunday about exactly when Trump’s blood oxygen dropped — episodes they neglected to mention in multiple statements the day before — or whether lung scans showed any damage.
It was the second straight day of obfuscation from a White House already suffering from a credibility crisis. And it raised more doubts about whether the doctors treating the president were sharing accurate, timely information with the American public about the severity of his condition.
Pressed about conflicting information he and the White House released on Saturday, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged that he had tried to present a sunnier description of the president’s condition.
“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, that his course of illness has had. Didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction,” Conley said. “And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”
Medical experts said Conley’s revelations were hard to square with his positive assessment and talk of a discharge.
“There’s a little bit of a disconnect,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, chief medical and scientific officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
It was not clear for how long Trump's recovery would continue at the White House once he is discharged.
According to CDC guidelines, “In general, transport and movement of a patient with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection outside of their room should be limited to medically essential purposes.”
Even before Trump's motorcade outing on Sunday, some Secret Service agents had expressed concern about the lackadaisical attitude toward masks and social distancing inside the White House, but there isn’t much they can do, according to agents and officials who spoke to The Associated Press. This close to the election, thousands of agents are engaged on protective duty so they can be subbed out quickly should someone test positive.
The disclosures about Trump's oxygen levels and steroid treatment suggested the president is enduring more than a mild case of COVID-19.
Blood oxygen saturation is a key health marker for COVID-19 patients. A normal reading is between 95 and 100. Conley said the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94% on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday.
He was evasive about the timing of Trump oxygen drops. (“It was over the course of the day, yeah, yesterday morning,” he said), and asked whether Trump’s level had dropped below 90%, into concerning territory. (“We don’t have any recordings here on that.”) 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 rage, Trump’s medical team said.
Signs of pneumonia or other lung damage could be detected in scans before a patient feels short of breath, but the president’s doctors declined to say what those scans have revealed.
“There’s some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern,” Conley said. He declined to outline those “expected findings.”
Asked about Conley’s lack of transparency, White House aide Alyssa Farah suggested the doctors were speaking as much to the president as to the American public, “when you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence, you want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent.”
In all, nearly 7.4 million people have been infected in the United States, and few have access to the kind of around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments as Trump.
Trump’s treatment with the steroid dexamethasone is in addition to the single dose he was given Friday of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus. Trump on Friday also 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 virus, and remdesivir curbs the virus’ ability to multiply.
The National Institutes of Health COVID-19 treatment guidelines recommend against using dexamethasone in patients who do not require oxygen. It has only been proven to help in more serious cases. Among the concerns with earlier use is that steroids tamp down certain immune cells, hindering the body’s own ability to fight off infection.
Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications.
First lady Melania Trump has remained at the White House as she recovers from her own bout with the virus.
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: former New Jersey Gov. Chris 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. Another prominent Republican who has tested positive: Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
One of the president’s personal assistants, Nick Luna, tested positive after having traveled with Trump several times recently, a White House official said Saturday night. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter by name and requested anonymity.
Just a month before the presidential election, the revelation came in a Trump tweet about 1 a.m. Friday after he had returned from an afternoon political fundraiser.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately," Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. "We will get through this TOGETHER!”
As for Trump's attendance at Thursday's fundraiser, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “He socially distanced. It was an outdoor event, and it was deemed safe by White House Operations for him to attend that event.”
McEnany, who has since tested positive, and Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino, who were originally set to join him on the trip, were replaced at the last minute by other aides.
Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus and “remains in good health,” his spokesman said.
Trump's reelection campaign said it was putting on hold all events featuring Trump and members of his family but that Pence would resume campaigning since he tested negative.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a major flashpoint in his race against Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware citing concern about the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.
“I don’t wear masks like him," Trump said of Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
World leaders offered the president and first family their best wishes after their diagnosis, as governments used their case as a reminder for their citizens to wear masks and practice social distancing measures.
Trump is far from the first world leader to test positive for the virus, which previously infected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized last month while fighting what he called a “hellish” case of COVID-19.