President Donald Trump sought to dispel questions about the severity of his coronavirus infection by calling for a new round of stimulus, posting the second video of himself in two days and launching a fresh round of campaigning by top supporters.
In the video, posted on Twitter after nearly 24 hours in the hospital, Trump said “I feel much better now” and “I think I’ll be back soon” to the re-election campaign. His doctor, Sean Conley, said in a Saturday night update that the president had made “substantial progress” and “spent most of the afternoon conducting business.”
Yet Trump also lashed out in private at his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, after learning that it was Meadows who told reporters earlier in the day that the president’s vital signs looked troubling, and that the next 48 hours would be crucial as the president wasn’t yet on a clear path to recovery.
That contradicted a public readout of Trump’s condition from Conley— signaling that inside the White House, questions still linger about the president’s health as he entered a second full day at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Trump’s re-election campaign is now mobilizing allies to counteract that image through appearances on television and other media, according to people familiar with the plans who also described Trump’s displeasure with Meadows. The effort by allies to show Trump making a strong recovery was under way Saturday, with the addition of Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller to the guest lineup of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
And the president’s campaign launched “Operation MAGA” to send out surrogates who would attest to his vitality and keep his voter base motivated until Trump recovers enough to resume campaigning in person.
Covid cases increase
Even so, the virus spread further in the president’s circle as Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and Trump debate coach, said he checked into a hospital on Saturday with “mild symptoms” of Covid-19.
In an update released by the White House Saturday night, Conley said that while the president was “not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic.” He added that Trump had received without complications a second dose of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Remdesivir, which is authorized for use in hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
The physician told reporters earlier in the day that Trump had experienced “mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue” on Thursday but all of those symptoms “are resolving and improving.”
The remarks contradicting Conley’s upbeat account of Trump’s health initially were attributed to a person familiar with the situation and included in a pool report shared with the White House press corps. A video later surfaced on the internet showing Meadows talking to the reporters.
‘We were concerned’
Although Conley said Trump has been fever-free for more than 24 hours, the physician declined to directly answer several questions about the president’s health, including how high his fever was on Thursday or whether he has ever been on supplemental oxygen to help him breathe.
Meadows said in a Fox News interview on Saturday night that Trump is “doing really well now” but on Friday had suffered from a fever and reduced blood-oxygen saturation.
“Yesterday morning we were concerned with that,” he said. “He had a fever, and his blood oxygen level had dropped rapidly.”
Conley also created some confusion himself by putting the timeline of the president’s diagnosis at 72 hours — longer than previously announced. Later Saturday, he issued a statement correcting his remarks and reiterating that Trump was first diagnosed with Covid on Thursday evening.
Trump praised the doctors and nurses at Walter Reed on Saturday. “With their help, I am feeling well!” he tweeted. In another tweet, he called for lawmakers to reach agreement on another round of pandemic relief to jolt the U.S. economy.
Conley said Trump hasn’t experienced trouble breathing. His blood-oxygen saturation level is between 96% and 98% and Trump isn’t currently on supplemental oxygen, Conley said. Trump didn’t need oxygen on Thursday or Friday after he was brought to the hospital, but the doctor didn’t say specifically if the president was administered oxygen on Friday while he was still at the White House.
The doctor declined to say when the president last received a negative coronavirus test and also declined to say how Trump was infected, calling the question “irrelevant” to his care. Asked about Trump’s risk factors for Covid-19, Conley said: “He’s 74, he’s male and he’s slightly overweight. Other than that, he’s very healthy.”
Trump is only the most prominent case in what has become an outbreak of coronavirus among top Republican leaders. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel have both tested positive.
Three Republican senators have said they also tested positive this week: Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and former top aide Kellyanne Conway said on Twitter late Friday that she, too, had contracted the virus.
Christie said Saturday he’d tested positive. “In consultation with my doctors, I checked myself into Morristown Medical Center this afternoon,” he said on Twitter. “While I am feeling good and only have mild symptoms, due to my history of asthma we decided this is an important precautionary measure.”
Trump traveled to New Jersey on Thursday for a fundraiser after learning that a close aide, HopeHicks, had tested positive for coronavirus infection. CDC guidelines call for people who are in close contact with infected people to quarantine themselves for 14 days and practice social distancing at all times.
Conley said that he had made the call for Trump to go to Walter Reed, despite evidently mild symptoms, “because he’s the president of the United States.”
Some of the infected Republicans, including Lee, Tillis and Conway, attended a Sept. 26 event at the White House where Trump announced he would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Though the event was held outdoors in the White House Rose Garden, there were few public health precautions.
More than 150 people sat side-by-side in the audience. Almost no one wore masks. Lee was seen hugging other guests. And many of the guests participated in crowded indoor receptions as well.
Trump entered the hospital Friday evening after announcing earlier in the day that he and first lady Melania Trump had been diagnosed with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Doctors have administered a pair of advanced treatments to the president: Remdesivir and an experimental “antibody cocktail” made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that doesn’t yet have FDA approval.
Trump posted his first video to Twitter since the diagnosis as he arrived at Walter Reed on Friday evening. “I’m doing very well but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” he said.