President Trump will be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday evening and will return to the White House, where he will continue to be monitored following his Covid-19 diagnosis, his doctors said.
Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed Friday after experiencing a drop in his oxygen levels that required supplemental oxygen to be given, his medical team and the White House have said. Trump first started feeling symptoms on Thursday, and tested positive for the coronavirus that night.
During a briefing Monday, Sean Conley, the president’s lead physician, said that Trump had met criteria for discharge, “though he might not be entirely out of the woods yet.” Conley said Trump had not had a fever for 72 hours and had healthy oxygen levels on Monday.
“We plan to get him home,” Conley said.
According to federal health guidelines, Trump should remain in isolation at the White House, given that he could still be infectious.
But so far, Trump hasn’t followed all the recommendations. On Sunday, he went to wave to supporters outside the hospital from the inside of a car that had at least two other people in it. White House officials argued that precautions were taken and that people who were around the president wore protective equipment.
In a tweet Monday afternoon announcing that he would be discharged at 6:30 p.m., Trump that he was “feeling really good!” He added, “Don’t be afraid of Covid” — a message sure to alarm public health experts, given that the U.S. epidemic is still raging and that more than 200,000 Americans have died from Covid so far. The global death toll is more than 1 million. His message came just hours after more White House officials said they had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020
At their briefings over the weekend and Monday, Trump’s doctors portrayed Trump as feeling well and in good spirits, with few symptoms or complaints. But he has had at least two periods when his oxygen levels dropped, which outside experts say are signs that the president does not have just mild illness. Outside experts have also said that the president’s treatment regimen — including the steroid dexamethasone, which is typically reserved for hospitalized Covid-19 patients who need oxygen or on ventilators — makes it seem like his doctors are treating a sicker patient than the one they’ve described.
Outside experts have also raised questions about details that Trump’s medical team hasn’t provided that could give clues into how severe his illness is, including how high his fever got, how low his oxygen levels reached, and what imaging of his lungs showed. Conley has also avoided answering when Trump last tested negative for the virus.
Conley has said that because Trump is the president, the medical team decided to throw everything in their arsenal at his illness. He acknowledged that they were in some “uncharted territory” given that Trump had received a combination of therapies early in the course of his illness that few, if any, other patients had received so quickly. In addition to dexamethasone, Trump has received the antiviral remdesivir and an experimental cocktail of monoclonal antibodies for Covid-19 that is still in clinical trials.
A main concern with Covid-19 patients is that they can appear to be improving only to quickly take a turn for the worse. That generally happens around five to seven days after patients start feeling sick. Conley acknowledged that Trump would need to be monitored closely the next several days, but said that doctors generally try to get patients out of the hospital as quickly as is safely possible, and noted that there was no care being provided to the president at Walter Reed that couldn’t be done at the White House’s medical unit, as of now.
Trump’s doctors said he would receive the fourth of his five doses of intravenous remdesivir Monday at Walter Reed before going back to the White House. The fifth dose can be given at the White House Tuesday, they said. He continues to take dexamethasone.
Public health experts have been wondering if Trump’s case of Covid-19 could reshape how Americans, particularly those who have followed Trump’s lead in dismissing the severity of the coronavirus and not taking recommended precautions, view the U.S. epidemic. Much of that could come down to how the president himself speaks about the virus, experts have said. Immediately after Trump’s tweet Monday, pandemic authorities were reacting with alarm, warning that Trump’s message could undermine efforts to control the spread of the virus.
“If our president doesn’t do well in this infection, it might cause a lot of people who are thinking that it’s a hoax to think twice,” Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Friday, before Trump went to Walter Reed. “If he sails through it … then it could potentially create more fuel for somebody who’s already disregarded this virus as not important to continue doing so and to have many people who listen quite dogmatically to him think the same.”