By Steve Herman
Doctors treating U.S. President Donald Trump revealed on Sunday that their patient, hospitalized for COVID-19, experienced “two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation.” COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Despite that, “the fact of the matter is, he is doing really well,” the president’s primary physician, Dr. Sean Conley, told reporters.
A team led by Conley was more transparent during Sunday’s news briefing than on the previous day when their appearance before a pool of White House reporters seemed to raise as many questions as it answered.
Conley, asked by a reporter why he had been evasive on the question of whether Trump had required supplemental oxygen at the White House on Friday — which the president did for about an hour — replied he was trying “to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team.”
Conley, an osteopath and a commander in the U.S. Navy, explained that he did not “want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”
That medical team, during a 10-minute briefing on Sunday outside the front steps of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, explained that the president is now taking a steroid, dexamethasone (typically not administered in mild or moderate cases of the coronavirus), along with a five-day course of remdesivir, an anti-viral medication.
Dr. Sean Dooley, an army colonel and pulmonologist, told reporters that the president’s vital signs were stable on Sunday morning and the patient was walking around, not complaining of shortness of breath or experiencing any other respiratory symptoms.
“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,” announced Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a civilian specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Some key questions still remain unanswered, such as whether the president has suffered any lung damage — doctors in their responses Sunday not going beyond that there have been the “expected findings” with their patient, who is a 74-year-old overweight male with no history of smoking.
Trump on Friday had a high fever, and that — along with the brief need for supplemental oxygen — prompted the president’s move from the White House to the hospital, according to Conley.
Trump tweeted out a video Saturday evening in which he said he was doing well and hoped to be back soon, acknowledging that the next few days will be the “real test.”
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 the infection.
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said Sunday a discussion of temporarily transferring power to Vice President Mike Pence has not been discussed.
“We have a government that is steady,” O’Brien said on CBS News’ Face the Nation, adding later, “We have plans for everything.”
Trump’s campaign Friday put on hold all previously announced campaign events involving the president’s participation. Pence is to make campaign appearances this week, as well as face off Wednesday evening against the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California.
Sunday marked 30 days before the November presidential election. Trump’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, said Friday 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 is a “bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously.”
Trump and Biden were about four meters apart on a debate stage Tuesday evening in Cleveland, Ohio. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests at least two 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.
The coronavirus has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States and infected about 7.4 million across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.