President Donald Trump returned to the White House Monday evening after being treated for COVID-19 for three days at the hospital, and removed his mask to pose for photos on a balcony before walking into the residence.
Trump didn’t speak to reporters at the White House and only said “thank you very much” to those gathered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before boarding the presidential helicopter. Back at the White House, he walked up the South Portico stairs to the balcony, where he removed his mask, flashed thumbs-up with both hands and saluted for several seconds.
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 5, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Trump spent three days hospitalized for coronavirus. (Photo: Win McNamee, TNS)
He did not appear to put his mask back on before walking into the residence. The show of defiance toward both the virus and public health measures to combat its spread was in keeping with the president’s tone earlier when he announced he would leave the Bethesda, Maryland, hospital.
“Don’t be afraid of COVID,” he said in a tweet. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”
The president has received medical care unavailable to most people, including three powerful medicines and an airlift to and from the hospital. The virus has infected more than 7.4 million Americans and has killed more than 210,000 since February, including 475 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The president’s aides hope to keep him at the White House residence and away from the Oval Office but are uncertain how long that will last, according to people familiar with the matter. “We’ll be back on the campaign trail soon!!!” Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital.
“Over the past 24 hours, the president has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all hospital discharge criteria,” White House physician Sean Conley said at a briefing after Trump’s announcement.
Trump “may not entirely be out of the woods” but the rest of his care can safely be performed at the White House, Conley said.
The president received a fourth dose of an antiviral drug, Remdesivir, at Walter Reed before he was discharged and will get a fifth dose at the White House, his medical team said.
“He’s returning to a facility, the White House medical unit, that’s staffed 24-7,” Conley said. “Every day a patient stays in the hospital unnecessarily is a risk to themselves.”
Conley said coronavirus patients can stop shedding the virus in as few as five days after diagnosis, and that Trump would be monitored to determine when he is no longer infectious. The White House plans for Trump to stay in the residence for a few days before returning to normal, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
The White House is creating additional room for Trump to work in the residence, and avoid heading into the Oval Office, by converting the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room into office space, according to a person familiar with the matter.
All aides who will see Trump over the next few days will be required to be in full personal protective equipment and maintain physical distance from the president, that person said, asking not to be identified discussing internal preparations.
Conley conceded that the course of Trump’s illness could still take a turn. “We all remain cautiously optimistic and on guard because we’re in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to a patient that received the therapies he has so early in the course,” he said.
“We’re looking to this weekend,” Conley added. “If we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same or improving, better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief.”
Trump has received doses of two other medicines, including an experimental “antibody cocktail” and a steroid, dexamethasone, usually used to combat inflammation in people with more severe cases of COVID-19.
During the news conference, one of Trump’s doctors read off a list of the president’s vital signs as of this morning, including his temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate and blood-oxygen saturation level. His medical team has not previously released that data to the public.
But Conley declined to discuss the results of scans of Trump’s lungs, citing federal health privacy law.
Trump went to the hospital Friday evening, after announcing early that morning he’d tested positive for the virus. He was briefly administered supplemental oxygen at the White House before traveling to Walter Reed, Conley said Sunday.
The White House didn’t provide any update on Trump’s health in more than 24 hours between Sunday and Monday. Before he suddenly announced he’d leave the hospital, Trump himself hadn’t said anything about his condition on Twitter since shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday she tested positive for the novel coronavirus, adding her to a growing list of infected Trump associates that includes First Lady Melania Trump, at least two White House aides who travel with the president and three Republican senators.
With less than a month until Election Day, Trump’s hospitalization has jolted the presidential campaign, forcing him to scrap rallies and other events as polls show him trailing Joe Biden nationally and in swing states. His campaign has launched “Operation MAGA,” referring to his Make America Great Again slogan, to flood the campaign trail with top surrogates like Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s family and others.
Among the aides who were with the president Monday evening as he was preparing to leave were Max Miller, the deputy campaign manager for presidential operations, and Bobby Peede, the White House director of advance. They arrived at the hospital just before 3 p.m., heading to presidential suite.
Peede had the coronavirus earlier this year, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Trump’s release comes after a weekend of mixed signals from Conley, who on Sunday disclosed for the first time that the president had been given supplemental oxygen and received a medication that’s typically used in more severe COVID-19 patients.
Asked why he didn’t disclose during Saturday’s briefing that Trump had received oxygen despite repeated questions about it, Conley said, “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude” of the team and the president.
Trump was diagnosed with the disease late Thursday, after a close aide, Hope Hicks, also tested positive for the virus.
The president first tested positive after he returned from a fundraiser at his New Jersey golf resort on Thursday, McEnany told reporters on Sunday evening. Trump made an appearance on Fox News on Thursday night before disclosing on Twitter shortly after midnight on Friday that he had tested positive.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday criticized Trump’s travel to the fundraiser at his Bedminster golf resort in the state, saying it ought to have been canceled. The president went to the event despite knowing Hicks had tested positive.
“I hope it’s a lesson that now we’ve all learned,” Murphy said on CBS’s “This Morning.”
Biden, speaking in Miami, wished Trump and the first lady well and said he hoped the president would take mask-wearing seriously.
“I was glad to see the president speaking and recording videos over the weekend,” Biden said. “Now that he’s busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists, support masks.”
He pointed out that the Trump administration has rejected a mask mandate as recently as Friday, the day Trump was hospitalized.
“I backed that mandate months ago, he should back it now,” Biden said.
For now, the Trump campaign is not expected to require people who attend rallies to wear masks, but will continue to distribute them, along with hand sanitizer, a person familiar with the matter said.
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