The bombshell announcement early Friday morning that U.S. president Donald Trump and his wife – first lady Melania Trump – had tested positive for the coronavirus pandemic has reverberated around the globe. Financial markets recoiled at the news, which threw an already chaotic election season into total disarray with a little over four weeks remaining before voters go to the polls.
While politicos debated the impact of the diagnosis on the election, Trump’s physicians were working overtime to get a handle on the president’s health.
Trump is 74 years old – and clinically obese. In other words, he is at elevated risk for complications related to the virus – which does not appear to pose that much of a threat to younger, healthier Americans.
As the weekend progressed, reports about Trump’s condition grew more concerning – even alarming.
First, his chief of staff – Mark Meadows – appeared on Fox News on Saturday evening to provide a jarring assessment of the extent to which Trump’s condition deteriorated on the day he made the announcement.
“We were real concerned,” Meadows told the network. “He had a fever, and his blood oxygen level dropped rapidly.”
Meadows later told reporters that “the president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.”
“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” Meadows said.
Those comments conflicted with Meadows’ prior statements that Trump had experienced only “mild symptoms.”
Trump – who was said to have run a fever of 103 degrees on Friday – reportedly received supplemental oxygen at the White House prior to being transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland at 6:30 p.m. EDT on Friday. Trump also received his first dose of the experimental Covid-19 treatment Remdesivir while still at the White House.
“I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” Trump said in a video message posted to his Twitter account shortly before his departure for the hospital on Friday evening.
As of this writing, Trump’s physician – Sean P. Conley – has not confirmed that the president received oxygen treatments.
“Thursday, no oxygen,” Conley said on Saturday afternoon. “None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen.”
He did confirm Trump was taking Remdesivir, however.
“President Trump continues to do well, having made substantial progress since (his) diagnosis,” Conley said in a statement released late Saturday by the White House press office. “This evening he completed his second dose of Remdesivir without complication. He remains fever-free and off (of) supplemental oxygen with a saturation level between 96 and 98 percent all day.”
Conley did say that “while not out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic” about Trump’s prognosis.
“The plan for (Sunday) is to continue observation in between doses of Remdesivir, closely monitoring his clinical status while fully supporting his conduct of presidential duties,” Conley’s statement concluded.
Trump released a second video message from his offices at Walter Reed offering his assessment of the situation.
“I came here, wasn’t feeling so well – I feel much better now,” Trump said in the video. “We’re working hard to get me all the way back – I have to be back because we still have to make America great again.”
“This was something that happened and it’s happened to millions of people all over the world and I’m fighting for them – not just in the U.S. – I’m fighting for them all over the world,” Trump continued. “We’re going to beat this coronavirus – or whatever you want to call it – and we’re going to beat it soundly.”
Trump called the coronavirus drugs he was taking – and those yet to be released – “miracles,” although he acknowledge that the “real test” would be to see how his condition evolved over “next couple of days.”
“I had no choice,” Trump said of his decision to maintain a public schedule. “I just didn’t want to stay in the White House. I was given that alternative – stay in the White House – lock yourself in, don’t ever leave. Don’t even go to the Oval Office – just stay upstairs and enjoy it. Don’t see people. Don’t talk to people. And just be done with it – and I can’t do that.”
“This is America, this is the United States – this is the greatest country in the world this is the most powerful country in the world,” Trump added. “I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs … we have to confront problems. As a leader you have to confront problems. There’s never been a great leader who would have done that.”
During his conversations with reporters on Saturday, Meadows rebuked rumors that there was a discussion within the White House about invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – which provides for the temporary transfer of power in the event a sitting president is incapacitated.
“I have seen some of the reports and all of the pictures about the transition of power and who’s going to replace this person or that person and while that may make for good clicks on the internet and make for great hyperbole on TV, there was never a consideration and never even a risk for a transition of power,” Meadows told Fox.
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