President Donald Trump continues to improve in his battle against COVID-19 and could be discharged as early as tomorrow, a White House physician said Sunday, as aides sought to portray an image of business as usual despite lingering uncertainty over the severity of his case.
Navy Commander Sean Conley said doctors gave Trump supplemental oxygen on Friday, something he refused to discuss on Saturday, after the president had a “high fever” and his oxygen levels dipped below 94%. He said Trump had another drop in oxygen on Saturday, but did not discuss treatment.
“There are frequent ups and downs … particularly when a patient is being so closely watched 24 hours a day,” said Conley. “If he continues to look and feel as well as he does today our hope is that we can plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House, where he can continue his treatment course.” Conley, seeking to clear up confusion from comments Saturday, said Trump has “experienced two episodes of transient drops” in his oxygen saturation, but that has been treated with medication. Conley was not specific about Trump’s exact oxygen levels and refused to say whether the president is in a negative pressure room.
Trump was treated with the steroid dexamethasone on Saturday following the his oxygen drop and he will continue to receive that “for the time being,” said Dr. Sean Dooley. The president completed his second dose of the antiviral drug remdesivir on Saturday and will continue his five-day course of remdesivir.
Asked why he evaded the question of whether the president received supplemental oxygen on Saturday, Conley said he was trying to reflect the “upbeat attitude of the president.” “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, his course of illness has had,” Conley said, adding that he “didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.”
“And in doing so, you know, came off (like) we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” he added. Throughout the weekend, the White House has sent mixed messages about Trump’s condition as he wrestles with the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.
“While not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic,” Conley said in a memo late Saturday.
After Trump’s physician and other doctors provided an update on Trump’s health at a news conference Saturday, an administration official – later identified by the Associated Press and the New York Times as chief of staff Mark Meadows – met with reporters and described the president’s condition earlier in the week as “very concerning.” Honoring a request made by the White House, a pool report sent to the White House press corps did not identify the official by name. However, a video posted online captured Meadows briefing the White House pool reporters after Conley’s remarks, identifying him as the source.
The differing messages drew criticism.
“During a crisis, public information must be complete, consistent, and accurate,” said Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California. “The White House has failed on all three counts. Recklessness, worsened by incompetence.”
At one point Saturday, Conley said that Trump’s case was “72 hours” old, meaning he would have been sick on Wednesday, the day he hosted a fundraiser in New Jersey. Conley later amended that comment, saying Trump – who was tested daily – did not have a positive result until Thursday night. He took that test after her learned that top aide Hope Hicks had been infected.
Conley issued a memo hours later on Saturday clarifying he should have said “third day,” that is Thursday night, Friday and into Saturday, rather than “72 hours.”