Trump continues to respond to COVID-19 treatments, say his doctors

Bethesda: US President Donald Trump's condition is improving during treatment for COVID-19 and he could return to the White House as early as Monday, his doctors said on Sunday.

That word came the day after a series of contradictory messages from the White House about Trump's condition caused widespread confusion about his health.

Dr Sean Conley briefs reporters outside the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda on Sunday.Credit:AP

White House doctor Sean Conley on Sunday returned to the steps of Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, where Trump is being treated for COVID-19, to clarify the confusion.

Conley said the President had a high fever and a blood oxygen level below 94 per cent on Friday and again on Saturday. The level stood at 98 per cent, Sunday morning local time, he said.

"The patient continues to improve. He has remained without fever since Friday morning, his vital signs are stable," said Conley.

Trump offered his own assessment of his status the night before in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to be in the White House soon. He was also back on social media on Sunday morning, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters – most not wearing masks – outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.

US President Donald Trump released a video update on his health on Saturday.Credit:Twitter

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the President’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line.

Trump's illness has upended the presidential campaign ahead of the November 3 national vote and cast a spotlight on the President's handling of the pandemic. The Republican President is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Sunday found that Biden had opened a 10-point lead over Trump nationally, slightly wider than it has been for the past two months.



Some 65 per cent of Americans said Trump likely would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously – a view that half of registered Republicans polled supported. Some 55 per cent said they did not believe Trump had been telling the truth about the virus.

Trump's campaign vowed that Vice-President Mike Pence, who would assume the presidency if Trump were unable to carry out his duties, would take over and lead an aggressive campaign, as would Trump's three oldest children.

"We can't stay in our basement or shut down the economy indefinitely. We have to take it head-on," Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said on ABC's This Week on Sunday.

Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, has pulled his attack ads off the air during Trump's hospitalisation, and on Sunday he dispatched senior aides to deliver a largely friendly message.

"We are sincerely hoping that the President makes a very quick recovery, and we can see him back out on the campaign trail very soon," Biden adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN's State of the Union.

She added: "This is a glaring reminder that the virus is real."

Biden was at home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday with no plans for in-person campaigning or other public appearances. Having already tested negative, he was expected to release the results of a new coronavirus test later in the day, and his campaign pledged to disclose those results and all other future test results for the 77-year-old.

On Saturday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Trump was "still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update Saturday night, Trump’s chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the President was “not yet out of the woods.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his own health faced new scrutiny.

Trump’s medical care is far superior to the average American’s, with around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments. In the hospital video, he defended his decision to continue campaigning and holding large events during a pandemic.

"I had no choice," said Trump, who refused to abide by basic public health recommendations, including mask-wearing. "I had to be out front. I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe. As a leader, you have to confront problems.”

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide and killed more than 209,000 people in the US.

First lady Melania Trump has remained at the White House to recover from her own bout with the virus.

Trump's administration has been less than transparent with the public throughout the pandemic, both about the President’s health and the virus's spread inside the White House. The first word that a close aide to Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. Aides have repeatedly declined to share basic health information, including a full accounting of the President’s symptoms, what tests he’s undertaken and the results.

Conley declined to say when Trump had last been tested before he was confirmed to have COVID-19 late on Thursday, fuelling speculation that he may have tested positive prior to Tuesday's night presidential debate.

The two experimental drugs he has received, given through an IV, have shown some promise against COVID-19.

Conley noted that in many cases, COVID-19 can become more dangerous as the body responds. "The first week of COVID, and in particular day seven to 10, are the most critical in determining the likely course of this illness," he said.

At the same time, the White House has been working to trace a flurry of new infections of close Trump aides and allies. Attention is focused in particular on the September 26 White House event introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

That day, Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands – overwhelmingly without masks. There were also several indoor receptions, where Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others spent time in the close quarters of the White House.

Among those who attended and have now tested positive are former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame and at least two Republican lawmakers – Utah Senator Mike Lee and North Carolina Senator. Thom Tillis.

The President’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and the head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, have also tested positive, though they were not at the Barrett event.

AP, Reuters

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