By Steve Herman
A group of physicians treating U.S. President Donald Trump for COVID-19 gave an upbeat report Saturday.
“This morning the president is doing very well,” his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, told reporters late Saturday morning at the front entrance of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Saturday.
Conley, an osteopathic physician and a commander in the U.S. Navy, told reporters that in coordination with a team of medical professionals at the hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, he recommended that Trump be brought there the previous day.
“At this time, the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” said Conley, who explained that on Thursday, the day Trump tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, Trump had “a mild cough, some nasal congestion and fatigue – all of which are now resolving and improving.”
The physician said it was unclear how long the president would need to remain hospitalized and that the president was not currently on supplemental oxygen. He did not answer questions regarding whether Trump had ever required oxygen.
“We are monitoring him very closely for any evidence of complications from either the coronavirus illness or the therapies that we are prescribing to make him better,” said Dr. Sean Dooley, an internist.
“He is in exceptionally good spirits,” Dooley said, explaining that when the team of doctors completed its rounds Saturday morning, the president exclaimed, “I feel like I could walk out of here today.”
Not many specifics
The team of doctors declined to go into detail on the president’s diagnosis in response to some of the questions from reporters.
Conley said Trump was receiving daily ultrasounds and lab work, but when asked if lung scans had shown damage, he declined to “go into specifics of what the findings are.”
On Thursday, the 74-year-old president was given a high dose of an experimental special antibody therapy cocktail developed by Regeneron to fight the coronavirus, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, said.
“We’re working very closely with the company to monitor him in terms of that outcome,” said the doctor, who added that Friday evening Trump received the first of a five-day course of intravenous remdesivir, another antiviral drug being studied to see how effective it is in fighting COVID-19.
“If he needs all five days, that would likely be the course,” Conley said, adding that Trump “has been fever free for over 24 hours.”
The team of doctors noted that days seven to 10 are the most concerning for a coronavirus patient because of the possibility of serious inflammation.
“Every day, we’re evaluating, ‘Does he need to be here?’ ” Conley said in answering questions from reporters during the 12-minute briefing.
Shortly after the news conference, Trump tweeted, “Doctors, Nurses and ALL at the GREAT Walter Reed Medical Center, and others from likewise incredible institutions who have joined them, are AMAZING!!!”
Both Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday evening after one of the president’s close aides, Hope Hicks, was confirmed to be ill with COVID-19.
Late Friday, Trump, who is suffering from COVID-19, tweeted from his hospital suite, “Going welI, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”
The president was taken by helicopter Friday afternoon from the White House to the military hospital, where he was expected to remain for at least several days.
Trump, with a wave and a thumbs-up gesture to reporters, boarded Marine One on the White House South Lawn and flew to the medical center outside Washington, which has a suite that allows presidents to work from the hospital.
After the helicopter landed at the hospital, Trump walked to a vehicle for the short drive to the main building’s entrance.
There was no transfer of power from the hospitalized president to Vice President Mike Pence, who was at his official residence, the U.S. Naval Observatory, according to White House officials.
Pence on Saturday afternoon was to lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force conference call from his residence.
Prayers from Biden
Trump’s illness comes a month before the November election. His opponent, Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, said Friday that he was sending “prayers for the health and safety of the first lady and the president of the United States.”
Biden added that the president’s positive test for COVID-19 was a “bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously.”
Trump and Biden were about 4 meters apart on a debate stage Tuesday evening in Cleveland, Ohio. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests at least 2 meters for social distancing purposes.
Biden’s campaign said the former vice president tested negative Friday for the coronavirus.
Speaking Friday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Biden, wearing a surgical mask, called again for a national mask mandate, asserting it could save 100,000 lives in 100 days.
As of Saturday afternoon EDT, the coronavirus had killed almost 209,000 people in the United States and infected 7.35 million across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Trump’s campaign Friday put on hold all previously announced campaign events involving the president’s participation.
“Vice President Mike Pence, who has tested negative for COVID-19, plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.
A spokesman confirmed early Saturday that Stepien had also tested positive for the virus and was suffering “mild, flu-like symptoms.”
Trump, who for months has played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, on Thursday evening confirmed during a telephone interview on the Fox News Channel that he and the first lady had been tested after Hicks was confirmed to have been infected.
The president, in his 70s and overweight, is in a high-risk category for the coronavirus, but until Friday was otherwise believed to be in good health.
Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for COVID-19 early Friday, spokesman Devin O’Malley said, adding the vice president “remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that he and his wife, Susan, had also tested negative.
Pompeo said he and his wife were examined on an airplane 20 minutes before landing in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The country’s top diplomat told reporters upon arrival that he last saw Trump on September 15 at the White House and said, “We are praying for the president and first lady that they’ll have a speedy recovery.”
Three U.S. senators, all from Trump’s Republican Party, have announced in recent days they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two of them attended last Saturday’s event in the White House Rose Garden where the president announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court.
Former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who left the White House staff in August but attended that event, tweeted late Friday that she had also tested positive for COVID-19.
During the Rose Garden event, guests were seated closely together and most did not wear masks — a defiance of the U.S. government’s own guidelines on such gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
VOA’s Wayne Lee contributed to this report.