Update: “He’s Back,” Says Physician as Infectious Trump Makes Dramatic Return to White House
President Donald Trump removes his mask upon returning to the White House Monday after spending three days in hospital being treated for COVID-19. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
In a highly choreographed video released on Twitter yesterday– complete with triumphant music and dramatic footage – U.S. President Donald Trump made a theatrical return to the White House after being in hospital for several days with COVID-19.
“He’s back,” said the president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, earlier in the day, advising the press that Trump would be leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre and returning to work. Conley said that his patient was still infectious and was “not out of the woods yet” but that he was well enough to continue his recovery at home.
The president, who looks none the worse for wear, used the occasion to play up his health and play down the public’s fears of COVID-19.
“Feeling really good!” he tweeted. “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!”
“Now I’m better and maybe I’m immune? I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful,” the president said in his video.
Conley suggested that the president will get right back to work while still being a threat of spreading the virus, saying that the White House will be set up to allow him to work while taking all health precautions.
However, it’s unclear whether Trump – who dramatically removed his mask after stepping out of the helicopter in his return video – will abide by any of this advice. He never has before and even while the White House is in full outbreak and many of his staff and top aides have contracted the virus, it’s unlikely that he’ll begin following his physician’s orders.
“Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls,” Trump tweeted, all but indicating that he would ignore best practices for those recovering from this deadly disease.
Trump’s communications director Tim Murtaugh told CBS News that the president hopes to be ready to take on Vice-President Joe Biden in the second televised debate, set for Oct. 15.
Like his Sunday drive-by to wave at supporters, Trump’s return to work is being described as a reckless move that could endanger those who come in contact with him.
“It is inexplainable that the President of the United States, who is actively shedding virus in millions of particles, would walk into that building with an enormous number of staff unmasked,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner from George Washington University School of Medicine told CNN.
Hospitalized With COVID-19, Trump Makes Brief “Reckless” Outing to Wave to Supporters (Oct. 5, 2020)
With conflicting rumours about his health flying around the media, on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump escaped the confines of his suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and took a spin around town waving to supporters from the back of a black Chevy Suburban.
The masked president, who was diagnosed late last week with COVID-19 along with a growing number of his campaign staff and closest advisers, was whisked back into Walter Reed after taking a quick circuit to wave at supporters who had gathered there with flags and signs.
The president announced his “surprise visit” on Twitter on Sunday, saying that he was going out to meet his supporters. A seemingly upbeat president said in the video that he has “learned a lot about COVID” during the last few days. He confusingly added: “I learned it about really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the let’s read a book school. I get it. I understand it. It’s a very interesting thing.”
Many, however, are calling it a “reckless” attempt to reach out to voters while ignoring medical advice and endangering those who took part in the motorcade. Dr. James B. Phillips, a physician at Walter Reed, tweeted: “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days.”
Trump’s condition has been the subject of conflicting rumours. It has been reported that twice he has taken supplemental oxygen, but doctors said the situation has improved since then.
The consensus seems to be growing that the president and numerous Republican strategists and officials had contracted the illness from a “super-spreader event,” possibly the Sept. 26 reception to introduce Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The event at the White House Rose Garden was held without mandatory mask or social distancing measures, and numerous people who attended have since developed the virus.
Physicians at Water Reed, including White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, have given press briefings that have differed from those emanating from the administration.
The president seems to have been treated with several different drugs to battle the virus, including the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone, which is usually indicated for patients with dangerously low oxygen levels. He is also receiving a “cocktail” of antibody therapy drugs as well as Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug usually given to fight off pneumonia.
Another of Trump’s doctors, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, noted that the president’s condition was much improved since he was hospitalized last week. “If he continues to look and feel as well as he does today, our hope is that we can plan for discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House where he can continue his treatment course,” said Garibaldi.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump Diagnosed with COVID-19: White House in Crisis (Oct. 2, 2020)
The news that Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 has shocked the world, thrown his re-election bid off course and raised fears about his ability to lead the world’s most powerful country.
On Friday evening, the White House announced that Trump was being transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts.”
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, delivered the news, adding that Trump was “in good spirits” and expected to be working from the medical centre for the “next few days.” She also said that he has “mild symptoms.”
Earlier in the day, Trump’s physician, Sean P. Conley, issued a memo saying that the president and first lady were “both well at this time” and had planned “to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.” He also noted that Trump will “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.”
The story unfolded last night after the shocking revelation from Bloomberg News that Trump’s closest aide, Hope Hicks, had tested positive for the virus. Hicks is a constant presence at the side of the president and has travelled with Trump since the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday.
Just three hours after this bombshell, Trump made his own announcement on Twitter. This raised immediate questions of timing and contact tracing as it was revealed that White House officials had known that Hicks had tested positive for 24 hours before the news was broken by Bloomberg.
Multiple October Surprises
It was a terrible night for Trump that came in the wake of widespread backlash for his failure to disavow white supremacists when pressed on the issue during the first 2020 presidential debate on Tuesday. His diagnosis not only casts doubts on his ability to lead and his political future, but the actions of his family members weren’t helping either.
First, secret recordings of Melania that capture the first lady expressing frustration at the criticism of the president’s policy of separating children of illegal immigrants from their parents were made public. In addition, the same recordings hear her complaining about having to decorate the White House at Christmas. And within hours of that, it also emerged that Donald Trump’s Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, was at the centre of a sexual harassment scandal during her time at Fox News.
As far as October surprises go, it’s hard to top the astonishing revelations that emerged last night. They call to mind the events in October 2016 that reset the race between Hillary Clinton and Trump. First came James Comey’s bombshell letter to Congress, delivered only 11 days before the election, declaring his intention to reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails and possible mishandling of sensitive and classified information. And that was followed up by Clinton coming down with pneumonia, which Trump suggested rendered her weak and unfit for duty.
Trump’s own October surprises — the never-ending chaos surrounding his family and now his own questionable health — might be the final blows in a re-election campaign that was already in a disastrous tailspin.
Trump Previously Downplayed COVID-19
The president has come under heavy fire for his handling of the pandemic response in the U.S., in particular for ignoring or downplaying the risks of the virus. Throughout the health crisis, he has belittled scientists and public health officials for exaggerating the severity of the disease, instead offering his own questionable remedies. And in September, ahead of the release of his book Rage about the Trump presidency, journalist Bob Woodward revealed that, during conversations earlier in the year, Trump admitted to downplaying the virus publicly despite understanding the deadly nature of COVID-19.
Plus, he has continued to hold huge “super-spreader” rallies where neither he nor the large crowds wear mask or practise social distancing. That includes the two Wisconsin rallies Trump had been scheduled to attend this weekend. Wisconsin is a COVID hot spot and officials from inside and outside the Trump camp — including the Wisconsin governor, local mayors and members of Trump’s own pandemic task force — reportedly requested the president either cancel the rallies or require all attendees to wear masks.
And he continued to hold meetings with his staff and government officials without practising social distancing. As well, he routinely blames the economic fallout on Democrat governors and mayors for their excessive restrictions and lockdowns. His family members regularly downplay the health crisis and seldom wear masks.
As recently as Tuesday’s presidential debate, Trump criticized his opponent Joe Biden for wearing a mask and limiting participants at his political campaign stops.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump castigated Vice-President Biden at the debate. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Biden, who was mercilessly taunted by Trump during the entire debate, took the high road when he was informed of his opponent’s diagnosis, tweeting, “Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”
Aging and The Health Risks
Trump’s diagnosis has sent shock waves around the world. Many leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin sent their best wishes.
And besides provoking the inevitable mockery that Trump has finally got what he deserved, much of the reaction focused on whether an older person with questionable health may be dangerously susceptible to the effects of the disease.
The one thing we know about the virus is that it can be particularly deadly to older people who suffer from underlying conditions, such as obesity and hypertension. Trump’s medical records show that he suffers from both and, at 74, he is definitely in the dangerous age group.
The Washington Post is currently reporting that Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms” of the virus. Biden, who was onstage with Trump during the debate, received a test out of caution and the results for he and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, came back negative on Friday.
It has also been reported that Trump’s campaign did not inform Biden’s camp that they had faced potential exposure to COVID-19, but rather Biden’s team learned about it from watching the news.
When Did He Know?
The inevitable question also arises, now, as to when exactly Trump knew he and those around him had been exposed to COVID-19. CNN reports that the White House received news of Hicks’s positive COVID test on Thursday but that Trump still travelled to Bedminster, N.J., for a fundraiser that day. And NBC quotes a source that says donors who were at the fundraiser “have been texting and calling [GOP and campaign] officials, freaking out” following the news of the president’s positive test. The White House also held its regular press briefing Thursday but, according to the CNN story, didn’t inform any journalists in attendance of Hicks’s positive COVID test.
Officials in New Jersey say they’ve begun contact tracing for those who were at the fundraiser, but Trump’s positive test raises greater concerns about the difficulty of contact tracing around a president and other White House and party officials in the midst of an election campaign.
For example, on Friday it was also announced that Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, has also tested positive for COVID-19 as has Republican Senator Mike Lee.
In fact, Lee was among the attendees at last Saturday’s announcement of Trump’s proposed Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, at the White House’s Rose Garden. CNN reported at the time that attendees wore masks to get into the event, but when the event began, “masks were virtually non-existent” while ABC News added that many guests were also “fist bumping and greeting one another in close proximity, and their seats didn’t appear to be six feet apart.”
So far, four people who attended that event — the president and first lady, Lee and University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins — have all been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Following Trump’s COVID diagnosis, the New York Times wrote, “The news of an American president contracting a potentially lethal virus carried global repercussions beyond that of any other world leader. Financial markets fell in Asia and looked set to open lower in Europe and the United States.”
Meanwhile, CNN suggested that Trump’s diagnosis might pose a security threat to the United States “should U.S. enemies seek advantage and probe a potential leadership vacuum.” Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant, discussed the effect Trump’s illness may have on his campaign after months of downplaying the virus, saying, “It’s hard to imagine this doesn’t end his hopes of re-election.”
In addition, many critics of the president also questioned what it means for Trump’s ability to lead the country out of the pandemic when he — the most protected person in the country and, arguably, the world — couldn’t even prevent himself from getting it. Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former White House director of communications, said in a CNN interview, “He’s lied about the science for six months, couldn’t protect himself or his family, so how is he going to protect the American people going forward?”