White House doctor says Trump coronavirus symptoms improving while sidestepping questions
White House physician Sean Conley said Saturday that President Trump is doing “very well” after being hospitalized with coronavirus, however his positive statements were undercut as an official described Trump’s condition as “very concerning.”
Conley told reporters that the president’s symptoms of a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue are improving, while sidestepping questions about Trump’s treatment and creating uncertainty about the timeline of his diagnosis.
“At this time the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley told reporters outside Walter Reed Medical Center, where Trump was hospitalized Friday evening. “Thursday, he had a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue, all of which are now resolving and improving.”
But immediately after he spoke, a source familiar with the president’s health told reporters that the president’s vitals over the past 24 hours were “very concerning” and described the next 48 hours as “critical in terms of his care.”
“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” the person said.
The statement, which was not on the record, seemed to diverge considerably from Conley’s positive assessment and quickly created confusion about Trump’s condition less than 24 hours after he was admitted to the military hospital in Bethesda, Md.
The Associated Press and other outlets later attributed the statements to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff.
Conley did not give a date when he expects Trump to be released from the hospital, but said the president has been fever-free for over 24 hours after experiencing a fever “Thursday into Friday.” Conley declined to disclose the specific temperature of the president’s fever.
At the first press briefing from a doctor since Trump announced his positive test early Friday morning, Conley danced around questions about whether the president had ever been on oxygen, repeatedly saying he was not currently on it. He later said that Trump had not been on it Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Conley also said that Trump has not experienced difficulty breathing.
“More than anything, he’s felt run down,” Conley told reporters.
Conley also raised new questions about the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis when he described Trump as “72 hours” into his diagnosis. The White House revealed Trump’s positive test in the early hours of Friday morning, which was less than 48 hours ago.
A White House official later clarified Conley’s remarks, saying that he meant to say that it is day three of the president’s diagnosis, not 72 hours. The official reiterated that Trump was diagnosed late Thursday night.
Conley later issued a memo correcting his statement to clarify that Trump was diagnosed on Thursday evening and that he was given an experimental antibody cocktail on Friday, rather than 48 hours prior.
Trump traveled to participate in a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday afternoon despite officials knowing that one of his top aides, Hope Hicks, had been diagnosed with the virus. The fundraiser would have taken place after Trump’s diagnosis if he were diagnosed 72 hours ago.
The doctors did not give a date of the president’s last negative test, which is important for understanding when exactly he contracted the virus and conducting contact tracing of those who might have become infected from contact with him.
Trump told doctors Saturday that “I feel like I could walk out of here today,” according to Sean Dooley, another doctor, who said that was an “encouraging comment.”
Asked why Trump needed to go to the hospital in the first place, Conley replied “because he’s the president of the United States,” indicating that doctors were being extra careful.
Trump is receiving an experimental antibody therapy from Regeneron, in addition to the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in hospitalized coronavirus patients.
“As the president, I didn’t want to hold anything back,” Conley said, explaining the choices to use those drugs.
Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed less than 24 hours after he and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19. The first lady is said to have mild symptoms, including a mild cough and headache, and is remaining at the residence.
The White House has insisted that Trump is in good spirits and that his stay at the military hospital was arranged out of an “abundance of caution.”
The White House physician said Friday that Trump was experiencing fatigue but has otherwise kept details about his symptoms closely guarded. Saturday’s news conference represented the most detail that Trump’s medical team has provided about his condition, even as Conley declined to answer questions about specifics of his treatment and fever.
Meanwhile, a handful of individuals who have been close to the president in recent days have since tested positive, including Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, his campaign manager Bill Stepien and a handful of individuals who attended a White House event where he revealed his Supreme Court nominee last Saturday. It remains unknown when Trump was exposed to the virus.
Shortly before Conley spoke to reporters, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who assisted Trump in preparing for Tuesday’s presidential debate and was also at the Supreme Court event, disclosed that he had tested positive.
–Updated at 4:28 p.m.