Donald Trump in motorcade surprises supporters outside hospital, as doctors provide update on treatment for COVID-19
United States President Donald Trump has briefly left hospital to drive past supporters waiting outside the Walter Reed National Medical Centre where he has been receiving treatment for COVID-19.
- Mr Trump’s doctors confirm he was given supplemental oxygen twice during his battle with the virus
- His doctor says he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the President when he declined to answer questions
- The President’s team says he is doing well and could be discharged as early as Monday to continue treatment
Mr Trump, 74, was flown to the hospital on Friday (local time) after he and his wife, Melania Trump, tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a video message posted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon (local time), Mr Trump said “we’re getting great reports from the doctors” and thanked the medical staff.
“I also think we’re going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street,” he said.
“They’ve been out there for a long time and they’ve got Trump flags and they love our country.”
A short time later, Mr Trump drove past the supporters several times in a motorcade.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the trip had been approved by medical staff and that appropriate precautions had been taken.
In the video, Mr Trump said “it’s been a very interesting journey”.
“This isn’t the read the book school, and I get it and I understand it and it’s a very interesting thing and I’m going to be letting you know about it.
“In the meantime, we love the USA and we love what’s happening.”
Earlier, Mr Trump’s doctors said the President’s condition has been improving and he may be able to return to the White House as early as Monday (local time).
Mr Trump’s personal physician, Dr Sean Conley, confirmed at a press conference on Sunday (local time) that Mr Trump had been given supplemental oxygen twice on Thursday and Friday, after a series of contradictory messages from the White House caused confusion about his condition.
“The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well,” he told reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.
Dr Conley said he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the President and his medical team when he previously declined to say that Mr Trump had been given oxygen.
The message from Dr Conley at the time had contrasted with briefings from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows who had said the medical team was concerned with the President’s health Friday morning when he experienced a drop in his blood oxygen levels and had a high fever.
Dr Conley added that he “didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true”.
The briefing outside the hospital lasted just 10 minutes.
Potential return to the White House
Mr Trump’s medical team said he had not run a fever since Friday and that his liver and kidney function remained normal after the second dose in a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences that has been shown to shorten hospital stays.
Dr Brian Garibaldi said Mr Trump was also given the steroid dexamethasone in response to “transient low oxygen levels”.
Dexamethasone is shown in studies to improve survival for patients hospitalized with critical COVID-19 who need extra oxygen.
But it should not be given in mild cases since it can limit the body’s own ability to combat the virus, according to guidelines from the Infectious Disease Society of America.
The doctors declined to say what they had found in scans of the President’s lungs.
He declined to outline those “expected findings”. The virus can cause pneumonia and other damage that may be visible in scans before it is otherwise apparent.
Mr Trump has also been being given an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin.
He released a four-minute video on Saturday in which he said the “real test” of his condition will come over the next few days.
Dr Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary critical care, said Mr Trump was “up and well”.
“Our plan for today is to have him eat and drink, to be up out of bed as much as possible, to be mobile,” he said.
“And 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.”
Dr Garibaldi said the President was not showing any side effects of the drugs “that we can tell”.
‘Aggressive’ campaigning to continue
The President’s campaign vowed that Vice-President Mike Pence, who would assume the presidency if Mr Trump were unable to carry out his duties, would have an “aggressive” campaign schedule this week, as would Mr Trump’s three oldest children.
“We can’t stay in our basement or shut down the economy indefinitely. We have to take it head-on,” Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said on ABC’s America This Week.
With Mr Trump off the campaign trail indefinitely, his campaign announced ‘Operation MAGA’, based on his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, which will see high-profile allies including Mr Pence and Mr Trump’s elder sons, Donald Jr and Eric, take over in-person campaigning this week.
Mr Pence, who tested negative to coronavirus on Friday, is scheduled to debate Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who largely avoided direct criticism of Mr Trump during a campaign trip to Michigan, took a more aggressive tone on Saturday while speaking to a transit workers’ union, even as he wished the President well.
“I’m in a little bit of a spot here, because I don’t want to be attacking the President and the first lady now,” Mr Biden said, adding he hoped Mr Trump and his wife Melania made a full recovery.
But he quickly turned to Mr Trump’s response to the pandemic, calling it “unconscionable” and blasting Mr Trump’s comment in an interview this summer that “it is what it is” when asked about the death toll.
A number of other prominent Republicans have also tested positive for coronavirus since Mr Trump’s announcement, including Republican senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson, former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.