Trump to be transferred to White House Monday evening

U.S. President Donald Trump says he’s leaving the hospital Monday evening after a three-day stay to treat symptoms of COVID-19.

The president tweeted: “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!”

Trump’s doctor confirmed the news during an afternoon news conference from Walter Reed. “He’s met or exceeded all standard discharge criteria,” said Dr. Sean Conley, Trump’s physician. “He will receive another dose of [the antiviral drug] remdesivir here today and then we plan to get him home.”

Conley said the president could resume his normal schedule once “there is no evidence of live virus still present.”

But he also cautioned that it was “uncharted territory” having a patient receive such aggressive medication so early in the course of the disease, and he said Trump may not be fully “out of the woods” for another week.

Conley repeatedly declined to share results of medical scans of Trump’s lungs, saying he was not at liberty to discuss the information because Trump did not waive doctor-patient confidentiality on the subject.

The news that Trump would be leaving the hospital came one day after he briefly ventured out while contagious to salute cheering supporters by motorcade — an outing that disregarded precautions meant to contain the virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans.

White House officials said Trump was anxious to be released after three nights at the facility, where doctors revealed on Sunday that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick. The doctors raised the possibility then that he could be discharged as early as Monday to continue the remainder of his treatment at the White House.

It was not clear how long Trump’s recovery would continue at the White House once he is discharged or how that could safely take place. 

Trump “is ready to get back to a normal work schedule” and was optimistic about a Monday release, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News. He said a determination would be made by his medical team.

Less than one month before election day, Trump was eager to project strength despite his illness. The still-infectious president surprised supporters who had gathered outside the hospital, riding past them Sunday in a black SUV with the windows rolled up. Secret Service agents inside the vehicle could be seen in masks and other protective gear.

The move capped a weekend of contradictions that fuelled confusion about Trump’s health. While Trump’s physician offered a rosy prognosis on his condition, his briefings lacked basic information, including the findings of lung scans, or were quickly muddled by more serious assessments of the president’s health by other officials.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has taken various drugs, including the steroid dexamethasone, which respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta says can lead to various neurocognitive side effects such as confusion and agitation. 1:06

In a short video released by the White House on Sunday, Trump insisted he understood the gravity of the moment. But his actions a short time later, by leaving the hospital and sitting inside the SUV with others, suggested otherwise.

Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen tested negative again, the White House said on Monday. Pence is scheduled to debate his Democratic counterpart in the only vice-presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany removes her mask before a television interview in Washington on Oct. 2. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, said the Democratic presidential nominee again tested negative for coronavirus Sunday. The results come five days after Biden spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Trump. Biden, who has taken a far more cautious approach to in-person events, had two negative tests on Friday.

Biden also said he was willing to debate Trump in the previously scheduled Miami meeting of the candidates on Oct. 15, provided it was safe to do so.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany late Monday morning became the latest person in Trump’s orbit to reveal a positive test. McEnany said that after days of negative tests, she tested positive and will go into quarantine, though it wasn’t clear where that would be or how it would affect the handling of the administration’s communications to reporters.

McEnany spoke briefly with reporters Sunday evening outside the White House without wearing a mask, but said that no members of the press corps spent enough time around her to be considered close contacts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with mild to moderate COVID-19 appear to be contagious up to about 10 days after symptom onset. People with more severe disease likely are contagious no longer than 20 days after symptom onset, according to those guidelines. That means isolation — whether in the hospital or at home — is supposed to last for at least 10 days.

Blood oxygen concerns reported, belatedly

The president sidestepped questions on Sunday about exactly when Trump’s blood oxygen dropped — episodes they neglected to mention in multiple statements the day before — or whether lung scans showed any damage.

The disclosures about Trump’s oxygen levels and steroid treatment suggested the president is enduring more than a mild case of COVID-19.

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis has created a lot of uncertainty for his campaign one month before the election with Trump behind Joe Biden in the polls. 2:54

Blood oxygen saturation is a key health marker for COVID-19 patients. A normal reading is between 95 and 100 per cent. Conley said the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94 per cent on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday.

Conley revealed that Trump was given a dose of the steroid dexamethasone in response.

“There’s some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern,” Conley said. He declined to outline those “expected findings.”

Trump’s treatment with dexamethasone is in addition to the single dose he was given Friday of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus.

Trump on Friday began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences antiviral 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.

The National Institutes of Health COVID-19 treatment guidelines recommend against using dexamethasone in patients who do not require supplemental oxygen. It has only been proven to help in more serious cases. Among the concerns with earlier use is that steroids tamp down certain immune cells, hindering the body’s own ability to fight off infection.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications.

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