Trump’s physician declines to provide key information on his health
White House physician Sean Conley on Monday ducked repeated questions from reporters about President Trump’s health and the timeline of his COVID-19 infection, even as he insisted the president is well enough to leave the hospital and return to the White House.
Conley, who has come under scrutiny for offering conflicting statements about the president’s health in recent days, briefed reporters hours before Trump is expected to depart Walter Reed hospital, where he’s been treated for the virus for three days.
Conley noticeably refused to answer multiple questions about when Trump last tested negative for the virus, something White House officials have similarly declined to share in recent days.
“I don’t want to go backwards. The contact tracing as I understand is being done,” Conley said.
Pressed again on why he would not disclose when Trump last tested negative, Conley smiled, saying “everyone wants that.”
The timing of Trump’s last negative test could be critical in determining how many people he may have exposed to COVID-19 and when it would be safe for him to interact with others again.
The White House has refused to provide a clear timeline, however, only saying Trump received an initial positive test after returning from a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday. Trump tweeted early Friday morning that he and the first lady had tested positive for the virus.
Conley asserted that it is safe for the president to return to the White House on Monday, citing his improved vitals and clinical evaluations in defending the decision. No doctor disagreed with the decision to allow Trump to leave the hospital, Conley added.
“If we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same or improving better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief,” he said.
But the physician declined to go into detail on key aspects of Trump’s health, leaving a murky picture of how serious the president’s illness may be.
Asked if chest scans showed any inflammation in Trump’s lungs, a common effect of moderate or severe cases of COVID-19, Conley cited HIPAA laws that protect patient privacy.
“We’ve done routine standard imaging. I’m just not at liberty to discuss,” he said.
Asked if the president’s blood work had turned up any abnormal results, Conley again cited the privacy law, saying it “precludes me from going into too much depth.”
Asked about the regiment of therapeutics doctors administered in recent days, which included an experimental antibody cocktail, the antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone, Conley would not divulge the decisionmaking process.
“There are dozens of therapies that we were made aware of, that we considered, that we discussed and debated and looked at the existing literature on,” he said. “And this is the regimen we chose.”
Conley also would not give much information on how Trump would remain safely quarantined upon return to the White House, where he will be exposing support staff to the virus.
“I wish I could go into that more, but I just can’t,” he said.
Conley, who has been Trump’s physician since 2018, has drawn intense scrutiny over the past few days in his public appearances to discuss the president’s health.
He declined to answer Saturday whether Trump had been given supplemental oxygen before being taken to Walter Reed before acknowledging on Sunday that he had. Conley said he merely wanted to provide an upbeat picture of Trump’s health.
Conley on Saturday also said the president was doing “very well” and had been making progress. But moments after Conley those remarks, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was seen asking to talk to reporters off the record, and a quote went out a short time later from an unnamed White House official saying Trump’s vitals had been “very concerning” and that he was not yet out of the woods.
The questions around Trump’s health are sure to persist even as he recovers at the White House. The president is 74 and overweight, putting him at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. Should he require a return trip to the hospital, it could prove damaging for both his physical health and his reelection chances.
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