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Donald Trump's car trip to wave to his supporters is 'insanity', doctor says

An attending physician at Walter Reed Medical Centre said “the irresponsibility is astounding” and was done “for political theatre”.

Image: AP/PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump briefly left hospital in a car to wave to his supporters, after his doctors said he could be discharged as early as today.

The president’s journey came shortly after he promised his supporters “a surprise” in a video posted on Twitter.

“It’s been a very interesting journey,” Trump said in the video.

“I learned a lot about Covid. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the let’s read the books school. And I get it, and I understand it. And it’s a very interesting thing.”

But at least one medical professional inside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, where Trump has been treated since Friday evening, questioned whether he had really learned anything.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” Dr James P Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted.

They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.
That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of Covid-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.

Yesterday, Trump’s doctor said the president’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he “has continued to improve” since then.

The update from Dr Sean Conley added a new layer of confusion to the president’s fight with Covid-19 as he also suggested Trump could be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre as early as today.

Trump’s doctors, speaking on the steps of the military hospital where he was being treated for a third consecutive day, refused to disclose the specific timing of the president’s dip in oxygen or whether lung scans showed any damage.

Dr Conley acknowledged he was trying to downplay the severity of the president’s condition the day before.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had. Didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction,” Dr Conley said.

And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.

Dr Conley said the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94% on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday. He was evasive when asked whether Trump’s level had dropped below 90%: “We don’t have any recordings here on that.”

The level currently stands at 98%, Trump’s medical team said.

virus-outbreak-trump Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Source: AP/PA Images

Trump offered his own assessment of his status the night before in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon”.

And he was back on social media early yesterday morning, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters, most not wearing masks, gathered outside the medical centre.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than seven million people nationwide and killed more than 209,000 people in the US.

First lady Melania Trump, who is 50 years of age, remained at the White House to recover from her own bout with the virus.

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When did Trump get a positive test result?

Trump’s administration has been less than transparent with the public throughout the pandemic, both about the president’s health and the virus’s spread inside the White House.

The first word that a close aide to Mr Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. And aides have repeatedly declined to share basic health information, including a full accounting of the president’s symptoms, what tests he has undertaken and the results.

Dr Conley declined to say when Mr Trump had last had a negative test before he announced he had Covid-19 late on Thursday. He initially suggested that Trump was 72 hours into the diagnosis — which would mean that he was confirmed infected on Wednesday. Dr Conley later clarified that Trump was administered an accurate test for the virus on Thursday afternoon.

At the same time, the White House has been working to trace a flurry of new infections of close Trump aides and allies. Attention is focused in particular on the September 26 White House event introducing Mr Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

That day, Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands – overwhelmingly without masks. There were also several indoor receptions, where Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others spent time in the close quarters of the White House, photographs show.

Among those who attended and have now tested positive are: former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame and at least two Republican politicians.

The White House has said Trump was expected to stay at the hospital for “a few days” and would continue to work from its presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties.

On Saturday, Dr Conley said that in many cases, Covid-19 can become more dangerous as the body responds. “The first week of Covid, and in particular day seven to 10, are the most critical in determining the likely course of this illness,” he said.

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