Trump given supplemental oxygen on Friday: White House doctor
White House physician Sean Conley on Sunday disclosed that President Trump had received supplemental oxygen following his coronavirus diagnosis, a day after the doctor sidestepped questions about whether the president had received oxygen over the course of his treatment.
Conley said that he recommended the president be given supplemental oxygen on Friday. He indicated it was possible Trump also received supplemental oxygen on Saturday.
“Late Friday morning, when I returned to the bedside, the president had a high fever and his oxygen saturation was transiently dipping below 94 percent,” Conley told reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday.
Conley also said that Trump has experienced two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen levels since he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus late Thursday evening. The second episode, which the doctor said occurred Saturday morning, led doctors to begin treating Trump with dexamethasone, a steroid that is used to reduce inflammation.
Conley disclosed the new information after dancing around questions on Saturday about whether the president had received supplemental oxygen during his first briefing about the Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment.
Asked why it took him so long to disclose that Trump had been given supplemental oxygen, Conley said that he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” that the team and president have had over the course of his illness. Conley denied that he was trying to conceal any information.
“I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction and in doing so, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” Conley told reporters. “The fact of the matter is that he is doing really well.”
White House communications director Alyssa Farah after the medical briefing echoed that sentiment.
“The other point I would make, which is what [Conley] alluded to, is when you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence. You want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent,” she said. “But chief of staff Meadows came out to give you guys more information just to try to be as transparent as we can.”
However, Farah, when asked, said she did not have information on exactly when on Thursday Trump received his first coronavirus test and said the decision for the president to travel to New Jersey that day was “made by White House operations because he wasn’t deemed to pose a threat, but I’ll get you an answer on the specifics.”
The president’s team of doctors on Sunday continued to offer a positive assessment of Trump’s condition, saying that his symptoms have improved and that he could be discharged as soon as Monday.
Even as Conley disclosed more specific information about the president’s treatment, he avoided answering questions about what X-rays and CT scans had revealed and whether Trump’s lungs had been damaged.
Asked whether Trump is being held in a negative pressure room, Conley declined to “get into the specifics of his care.”
Conley also said that he didn’t know whether Trump had received another dose of supplemental oxygen on Saturday, the second time he experienced a drop in his oxygen level, adding that he would need to check with the president’s nurses.
Sunday’s briefing came as the White House faced a mountain of questions on the president’s condition after offering conflicting messages over the weekend.
In his first briefing with reporters about the president’s health on Saturday, Conley conveyed that Trump was doing “very well,” that his symptoms of a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue were improving, and that he had been fever-free for 24 hours.
But Conley sidestepped questions on the president’s condition and treatment and misstated the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis, which he later needed to correct.
Immediately after the press conference, an individual later identified by news outlets as White House chief of staff Mark Meadows spoke with reporters on background to offer a more worrisome assessment of the president’s condition, saying that Trump’s vitals over the past 24 hours were “very concerning” and describing the next 48 hours as “critical in terms of his care.”
The series of events set off a flurry of questions about the president’s status. Trump sought to assure the public in a video message taken at Walter Reed and posted to Twitter on Saturday evening to say he is feeling “much better” and that the coming days would be the “real test.” The White House also released photos of the president working at the medical facility.
Conley insisted Sunday that Meadows’s statements had been “misconstrued.”
“The chief and I work side by side, and I think his statement was misconstrued. What he meant was that 24 hours ago, when he and I were checking on the president, that there was that momentary episode of the high fever and that temporary drop in the saturation, which prompted us to act expediently to move him up here,” Conley said. “Fortunately, that was really a very transient, limited episode.”
And Farah, asked about the apparent inconsistencies, said the White House would “be very quick to clean up anything.”
“I would disagree though that [Conley’s] update wasn’t accurate,” she said. “We came and gave supplemental information after the fact. This is a very distinguished military doctor. We all know and love [Conley]. He’s treated the president for some time. We can trust the information he’s giving, but if we later have supplementary information, you have my commitment.”
Updated at 3:10 p.m.