Trump Covid: President criticised over drive-past

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Media signaturePresident Trump visits supporters outside of hospital “surprisingly”

Medical experts question Donald Trump’s decision to greet supporters on a drive by the hospital where he is being treated for Covid-19.

There are concerns that the US president, wearing a mask, may have endangered intelligence personnel in the car.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Sunday’s trip was “approved as safe by the medical team.”

After conflicting statements over the weekend, questions about the severity of Mr Trump’s illness remain open.

The president has been in the hospital since Friday after announcing hours earlier that he tested positive for the virus.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Covid-19 has infected nearly 7.4 million people and killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States.

President Trump’s diagnosis changed his campaign when he faced Democratic challenger Joe Biden on November 3.

A growing number of people around the president, including his wife Melania Trump, senior advisors and Republican senators, have tested positive for the virus.

What did the president do?

Mr Trump waved to well-wishers from behind the glass of a sealed car after tweeting that he was leaving Walter Reed Hospital near Washington to make a “surprise visit” outside for “patriots”. At least two people were seen in the car wearing protective clothing in the front seats, and Mr. Trump was in the back.

Experts say the president’s short drive to quarantine broke public health advice while seeking treatment for the virus, potentially exposing intelligence agents in the vehicle to the risk of infection.

“This presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but also hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of Covid-19 transmission inside is as high as outside of medical procedures,” tweeted Dr. James Philips, a doctor in the same hospital where the President worked.

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Two Secret Service agents were seen in the front seats of an SUV wearing protective clothing

Those in the president’s car should now be quarantined for 14 days, he said.

Democrats have also criticized the trip, with House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries tweeted, “We need guidance. No photo ops.”

But White House Judd Deere defended the move, saying: “In carrying out this movement, reasonable precautions have been taken to protect the President and everyone who supports him, including the PSA [personal protective equipment]”.

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Walter Reed is one of the largest and most prestigious military medical centers in America

Meanwhile, NBC News reports that Melania Trump, who stayed at the White House with mild symptoms, has chosen not to see her husband at the hospital because of the risks to staff.

“She has Covid,” an unnamed official told NBC on Saturday. “That would expose the agents who would drive you there and the medical staff who would take you to him.”

What did we learn over the weekend?

The president’s condition turned out to be more serious than previously reported when he went to the hospital on Friday night.

The White House had said Mr. Trump had “mild symptoms” from Covid-19, but it was then confirmed that he had received supplemental oxygen after his levels dropped twice in two days.

According to experts, he was also given the steroid dexamethasone, which is usually reserved for serious cases.

On Sunday, the White House doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, raised the widespread confusion about Mr. Trump’s health after he and Mark Meadows, the President’s Chief of Staff, submitted conflicting reports.

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Media signatureDr. Sean Conley said he was trying to reflect “the optimistic attitude” of his team by not revealing that the president had received oxygen

Dr. Conley had made an optimistic forecast on Saturday that was later refuted by Mr Meadows, who said the president’s vital signs had been “very worrying” over the past 24 hours.

“I tried to reflect an optimistic attitude from the team and the president about the progression of his illness,” said Dr. Conley told reporters on Sunday. “I didn’t want to give any information that could steer the course of the disease in a different direction.”

There is skepticism about the prospect Donald Trump could get from doctors as early as Monday.

The crucial questions

It has been three days since the shocking discovery that Donald and Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are currently a number of important questions that remain unanswered.

When was the last time Trump received a negative test? Do we know all the facts about his health? Should Vice President Mike Pence Isolate? Why was the White House slow to contact?

How these issues are resolved could be key to understanding how much damage the virus will do to this president – his health, reputation, and political standing.

Read more about these unknowns and why they are important

The 74-year-old president, a man and someone classified as obese, belongs to a higher risk category for Covid-19. On Friday he received an experimental drug cocktail injection and began a five-day course on the antiviral drug remdesivir.

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However, Mr Trump attempted to project an image of strength by tweeting images of himself apparently coming from the hospital and a video message teasing his surprise drive by on Sunday.

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Media signatureSpeaking from Walter Reed Medical Center, President Trump described his treatment as “real school”.

What do the drugs say about Trump’s condition?

How important is it that Donald Trump was given dexamethasone? The steroid saves lives by calming the immune system, which can become dangerously overactive in Covid but must be used at the right time. Give it too soon and the drug could make the situation worse by affecting the body’s ability to fight off the virus.

This is not a drug that you would normally give at the “mild” stage of the disease. The recovery attempt, which took place in the UK, showed the benefit being achieved at the point where people need oxygen – which Mr Trump briefly did. The World Health Organization translated these results to recommend the use of the steroid in “severe and critical” cases.

Mr. Trump’s blood oxygen level fell below 94%, which is one of the National Institutes of Health’s criteria for “major illness”. Those low oxygen levels have not been sustained, however, and the gap between someone in need of temporary oxygen assistance and terminal Covid-19 is massive.

We don’t know all the details of Mr Trump’s condition, but it’s hard to imagine that you or I could be discharged from the hospital while taking dexamethasone and remdesivir and after having experimental antibody therapy. However, medical assistance from the US President is not available to us.

Who else around the president has tested positive?

Many of the people who tested positive for Trump attended a meeting at the White House on Sept. 26 that is being considered as a possible “super-spreader event”.

In addition to his wife, these include close adviser Hope Hicks, who is believed to be the first to show symptoms, campaign manager Bill Stepien, and former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Nicholas Luna, the youngest person reported to have tested positive, is a personal assistant or “body man” to the President and is in constant contact with Mr. Trump.

What about the political situation?

The president’s campaign team said Saturday it would move “at full speed” until Mr Trump could return to campaign. It calls on the top “surrogate mothers”, including Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and Vice President Mike Pence, to “push” the campaign for the time being.

No events are scheduled for Monday at the White House.

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Thousands of empty chairs were placed behind the White House over the weekend to represent America’s high death toll

In the meantime, Mr Pence will debate Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Joe Biden, who has continued his campaign, will appear in Miami, Florida on Monday – although he shared a stage in a debate with Mr Trump last Tuesday when the president may already have contracted the virus. Mr Biden’s campaign said he had a negative test for the virus on Sunday evening.