After being hospitalized for several days for a coronavirus infection and receiving two experimental treatments, supplemental oxygen and a steroid drug used only for the most severe cases of COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced Monday. tweeted that he would leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and return to the White House.
In a news conference Monday afternoon, White House physician Sean Conley readily acknowledged that Trump has not yet reached a critical period of his infection — roughly, days seven to 10 after symptoms — in which the condition of COVID-19 patients is rapidly and dramatically. may worsen overzealous immune responses. Trump is believed to be around day six of his symptomatic infection.
“While he may not be completely out of the woods yet,” Trump’s condition has improved and his medical team has cleared him to return to the White House, “where he will be surrounded 24/7 with world-class medical care.” Conley explained.
Health experts were quickly stunned by the decision to fire Trump from Walter Reed, where he would have been admitted initially for control purposes and out of an abundance of caution. Since then, Conley has revealed that Trump has been experiencing significant COVID-19 symptoms, including low blood oxygen levels. He has also been treated with dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid drug that, according to the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, is recommended only for severe cases of COVID-19 that require mechanical ventilation or supplemental oxygen.
“So ‘abundance of caution’ has been replaced by ‘throw caution to the wind and raise your middle finger while you’re at it,'” Esther Choo, a physician and professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, wrote in a tweet†
Experts were also shocked by the rest of Trump’s tweet on Monday afternoon, urging Americans: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
At the time of his tweet, the country was approaching a total of 7.5 million cases and 210,000 lost lives from the coronavirus pandemic, which has sparked a global public health crisis of historic proportions.
Trump’s surprise release from hospital is just the latest drama surrounding his condition and treatment, which has been shrouded in contradictions and clouding since Trump revealed his infection in the wee hours of Friday morning.
The country first learned that Trump was infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from one of his tweets, in which he said he and the first lady tested positive on Thursday evening† However, that timeline was called into question after two of the president’s doctors said on Saturday that he tested positive on Wednesday and started an experimental treatment on Thursday.
Conley — one of the doctors who suggested the alternate timeline — was quick to backtrack on his statement, saying it was a mistake and Trump tested positive for the first time on Thursday. However, media reports citing sources close to the president have said Trump had symptoms on Wednesday and tested positive earlier than he initially said.
Beyond the murky timeline, Conley has been evasive on questions about Trump’s plight. For example, on Saturday he repeatedly tried to dodge questions about whether Trump needed supplemental oxygen and instead tried to paint a rosy picture. But on Sunday, he admitted that the president had indeed been given supplemental oxygen. He explained his clouding by saying that he “tried to reflect the cheerful demeanor of the team, the president, who has been through his illness.”
Conley has also declined to provide information on whether Trump’s lung scans have shown damage from COVID-19 and how high his fever had been. He has also repeatedly dodged questions about when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus, furthering speculation about the timeline of his illness. Today, Monday, Conley also declined to answer questions about how Trump will prevent the infection from spreading further in the White House once he is released from the hospital.
Amid the unanswered questions, Conley has painted a confusing picture of the president’s plight, saying he’s “doing very well” and in good spirits, while also revealing that Trump had quickly started training courses from two experimental treatments – an experimental cocktail of monoclonal antibodies and the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Both are still in clinical trials, but early data has suggested they could both speed recovery from a coronavirus infection.
On Sunday, Conley revealed that on Saturday Trump had experienced another drop in oxygen levels in his blood and had been given dexamethasone — usually reserved for only severe and critical COVID-19 patients. But later that day, Trump was allowed to leave the hospital for a short drive past supporters stationed outside the hospital. Health experts and Secret Service agents were stunned by the ride, which they described as a “joy ride” and publicity stunt that endangered agents in the car with him.
One aspect of Trump’s infection that isn’t confusing is how he contracted the virus. Trump and his administration have consistently downplayed the pandemic and failed to take public health measures, such as distancing themselves and wearing masks, seriously. In the wake of Trump’s contagion, an ever-growing cluster of White House-related cases has come to light.
The White House outbreak makes Monday’s tweet even more stunning. Despite his serious condition, use of experimental drugs and extraordinary access to first-class medical care, Trump continued to downplay the virus and its effects. He ended his tweet by saying, “I feel better than I did 20 years ago!” But, experts note:that feeling could just be a side effect of the powerful steroid he’s on, which often causes mania.