BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s doctor on Saturday painted a rosy picture of the president’s health as he remains hospitalized for coronavirus treatment. But that assessment was immediately contradicted by a person familiar with Trump’s condition, who said the president was administered supplemental oxygen on Friday at the White House.
As well, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the president went through a “very concerning” period Friday and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.
The briefing by Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley and other doctors at Walter Reed Medical Center raised more questions than it answered, as the president’s physician left murky the issue of whether the president needed supplemental oxygen and declined to discuss exactly when he fell ill. Conley, in his briefing, also revealed that Trump began exhibiting “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, earlier than known.
According to the person familiar with Trump’s condition, Trump was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday before he was transported to the military hospital. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Conley had said Trump has been fever-free for 24 hours as he updated the nation on the president’s condition from Walter Reed Saturday afternoon. Trump was admitted Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus and has been undergoing treatment.
While Conley said the president is not currently on oxygen, he refused to say whether the president had ever been on oxygen, despite repeated questioning.
“Thursday no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” he said. He said that Trump’s symptoms, including a cough and nasal congestion “are now resolving and improving.”
“He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” said another doctor, Sean Dooley.
The administration has consistently been less than transparent about the president’s health as the virus spread inside the White House. Aides had declined to share basic health information about the president, including a full accounting of his symptoms, what tests he’s undertaken and the results. The first word that a close aide to Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House.
In a memo released shortly before midnight, Conley did report that Trump had been treated at the hospital with remdesivir, an antiviral medication, after taking another experimental drug at the White House. He added that Trump is “doing very well” and is “not requiring any supplemental oxygen.”
Conley, the White House doctor, declined to say when Trump had last been tested before he was confirmed to have COVID-19 late Thursday. He initially suggested that Trump was 72 hours into the diagnosis, putting the confirmation of the infection to Wednesday. Conley later clarified that Trump was administered an accurate test for the virus on Thursday afternoon, after White House aide Hope Hicks was confirmed to be positive and Trump exhibited unspecified “clinical indications” of the virus.
The White House said Trump was expected to stay at the hospital for “a few days” and he would continue to work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties. In addition to accessibility to tests and equipment, the decision was made, at least in part, with the understanding that moving him later, if he took a turn for the worse, could send a worrying signal.
On Saturday, Conley said Trump’s blood oxygen level is 96%, which is in the normal range. Trump has been treated with two experimental drugs, given through an IV, that have shown some promise against COVID-19. On Friday, he was given a single dose of a drug Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing to supply antibodies to help his immune system fight the virus.
Friday night, he began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus and remdesivir curbs the virus’ ability to multiply. “We’re maximizing all aspects of his care,” attacking the virus in multiple ways, Conley said. “I didn’t want to hold anything back if there was any possibility it would add value to his care.”