WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said from his hospital room that the next few days will be the “real test” of his treatment for COVID-19, after a series of contradictory messages from the White House caused widespread confusion about his condition.
In a four-minute video posted on Twitter on Saturday from his hospital suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a tired-looking Trump said he was feeling “much better.”
“Over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test, so we’ll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days,” Trump said into the camera, seated in front of an American flag and wearing a jacket and open-necked shirt.
Trump’s illness has upended the campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election and cast a spotlight on the president’s handling of the pandemic. The Republican president is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls.
Differing assessments of Trump’s health from administration officials earlier on Saturday left it unclear how ill the president had become since he tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday night.
A White House team of doctors said on Saturday morning Trump’s condition was improving and that he was already talking about returning to the White House.
Within minutes, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a less rosy assessment, saying, “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, whose initial comments were delivered on condition that he not be identified, altered his tone hours later, telling Reuters that Trump was doing “very well” and that “doctors are very pleased with his vital signs.”
Meadows did not clarify the discrepancy in his comments. A Trump adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity said the president was not happy to learn of Meadows’ initial remarks.
Administration officials have described the move to Walter Reed as precautionary and said Trump would stay for several days.
Another source who was briefed on Trump’s condition said the president was given supplemental oxygen before he went to the hospital. The decision to hospitalize Trump came after he had experienced difficulty breathing and his oxygen level dropped, according to a source familiar with the situation.
White House doctor Sean P. Conley told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday that Trump had not had trouble breathing, and was not given oxygen at Walter Reed.
“The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said.
He declined to give a timetable for Trump’s possible release from the hospital, and later had to issue a statement saying he misspoke after appearing to suggest Trump had been diagnosed as early as Wednesday.
In a statement on Saturday evening, Conley said the president was “not yet out of the woods” but his team remained cautiously optimistic.
“Today’s spectacle –