Questions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight

The White House and President TrumpDonald John TrumpJaime Harrison debates Graham behind plexiglass shield Doctors, White House staff offer conflicting messages on president’s health Trump given second dose of Remdesivir ‘without complication’, ‘not yet out of the woods’, Conley says MORE‘s doctors sought Sunday to project a positive message about the president’s battle against COVID-19 even as contradictory statements and limited information left a number of unanswered questions about his condition.

The team of doctors caring for President Trump on Sunday said he could return to the White House as soon as Monday while at the same time disclosing he had been on supplemental oxygen and that he was receiving a drug normally given to seriously ill patients.

And Trump himself sparked concern – and outrage – when he left his hospital room at Walter Reed Military Medical Center to wave to the supporters gathered outside from the back seat of an SUV.

White House physician Sean Conley said Sunday that Trump has experienced two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen levels since he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus late Thursday evening and that he had received supplemental oxygen at least once. 

The doctors also said Trump was given a steroid called dexamethasone that is generally given to people seriously ill with COVID-19, which has killed nearly 210,000 people in the U.S.

 

The White House physician admitted that officials had been intentionally vague a day earlier when pointedly asked when Trump had been administered supplemental oxygen in an attempt to be “upbeat” about the president’s prognosis.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness has had. I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” he told reporters in a Sunday morning news conference outside Walter Reed Medical Center, where Trump has been since Friday.

White House communications director Alyssa Farah after the medical briefing echoed that sentiment.

“The other point I would make, which is what [Conley] alluded to, is when you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence. You want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent,” she said.

Even as he disclosed more on Sunday, Conley avoided answering questions about what X-rays and CT scans had revealed and whether Trump’s lungs had been damaged.

Asked whether Trump is being held in a negative pressure room, Conley declined to “get into the specifics of his care.”

Conley also said that he didn’t know whether Trump had received another dose of supplemental oxygen on Saturday, the second time he experienced a drop in his oxygen level, adding that he would need to check with the president’s nurses.

Trump himself appeared in a video later Sunday, promising a “surprise visit” to supporters gathered outside the hospital and saying that he had “learned a lot” about COVID-19 since his

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Olive Garden parent takes a COVID-related hit in key markets but here’s why analysts are upbeat

THE RATINGS GAME

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Darden Restaurants

Olive Garden and other pieces of the Darden Restaurants Inc. business have taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic, but upbeat analyst groups are raising their price targets after the company took measures, like simplifying menus, in order to adjust.

Darden (DRI) reported fiscal first-quarter sales of $1.53 billion, down from $2.13 billion last year and just below the FactSet consensus for $1.56 billion. Olive Garden same-restaurant sales were down 21.1%. Sales at Olive Garden were down 27.7% to $788.2 million, sales at Longhorn Steakhouse fell 16.3% to $376.8 million, and fine dining sales sank 38.9% to $83.1 million.

“Overall, capacity restrictions continue to limit their top-line sales, particularly in key high-volume markets like California and New Jersey where dining rooms were closed for the majority of the quarter,” said Chief Executive Eugene Lee on the earnings call, according to FactSet.

Read: Beyond Meat, Incogmeato, Impossible Foods up ante in plant-based meat market

Lee notes that Olive Garden has 100 restaurants in California alone. Overall, what’s going to make a difference to same-restaurant sales in the near future will be increased capacity.

“We need to get California back,” Lee said. “We need some other areas to increase their capacity from 25% to 50%. Once you get past 50%, as long as the six-foot rule is in place, you’re still not going to really be able to max out your dining rooms.”

Even getting the bar area back in certain area is an improvement, he said.

The “best” Olive Garden in the company’s lineup, the Times Square location in New York City, is a $15 million location, Lee said. Now that restaurant is only pulling in $2,500 per day.

On Sept. 30, indoor restaurant capacity up to 25% will be allowed.

“[T]his is going to probably be hard for you to believe but we have one restaurant that cost us 50 basis points in comps. That’s the Times Square Olive Garden,” said Lee. “You wake up every day and you’re $300,000 short just in that one restaurant.”

Still, Darden shares closed up 8.1% on Thursday. The stock is down 11.3% for the year to date while the S&P 500 index (SPX) has edged up 0.8% for the period.

“Like many restaurant companies, Darden has used the pandemic as an opportunity to reset its cost structure, streamline operational processes, and eliminate unpopular items from the menu,” writes KeyBanc Capital Markets analysts led by Eric Gonzalez.

See: Kraft Heinz stock upgraded twice with analysts upbeat about ongoing business transformation

“While capacity limitations might mean Olive Garden’s sales recovery lags the industry, Darden’s cost-cutting measures continue to outperform expectations, and we see a more favorable margin structure in the future.”

KeyBanc rates Darden stock overweight with a price target of $108, up from $102.

Darden’s Chief Financial Officer Ricardo Cardenas said on the call that streamlining the menu “more than offset” the cost of additional to-go packaging.

A number of research groups raised Darden’s price target, including

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