WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump began a fourth day at the military hospital on Monday where he is being treated for COVID-19, as his condition remained unclear and outside experts warned his case may be severe.
The president’s team is treating Trump, 74, with a steroid, dexmethasone, that is normally used only in the most severe cases.
Yet, his medical team told reporters on Sunday that Trump could return to the White House as early as Monday. Even if he does, he will need to continue treatment as the Republican president is still undergoing a five-day course of an intravenous antiviral drug, remdesivir. The normal quarantine period for anyone testing positive for the coronavirus is 14 days.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday reiterated the hope that Trump would be released shortly from the hospital.
“He will meet with his doctors and nurses this morning to make further assessments of his progress,” Meadows told Fox News. “We are still optimistic that he will be able to return to the White House later today.”
Sequestered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington since Friday, Trump has released a series of videos in an effort to reassure the public that he is recovering from a disease caused by a novel coronavirus that has infected 7.4 million Americans and killed more than 209,000.
On Sunday, he also left his hospital room to ride in a White House motorcade that drove him past supporters gathered outside the hospital. Dressed in a suit jacket, shirt but no tie and a black mask, it marked Trump’s first in-person public appearance since Friday.
Critics and medical experts blasted Trump for the move, which potentially exposed the staff in his car to infection.
On Monday, his Twitter account released a stream of more than a dozen messages including “LAW & ORDER. VOTE!” and “RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. VOTE!”
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday showed Trump trailing Biden by 10 percentage points. About 65% of Americans said Trump would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously. Trump has consistently downplayed the risks of the pandemic since it first emerged this year, and he has repeatedly flouted social-distancing guidelines meant to curb its spread.
Trump is under fire for leaving the hospital on Sunday as well as for his statement that he met with soldiers and first responders at the hospital – moves that potentially exposed even more people to the virus.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” James Phillips, who is also an assistant professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University’s medical school said here on Twitter. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theater.”
CNN quoted a White House official as saying that his wife, Melania, who also tested positive for COVID-19, is not considering leaving the White House.
“Melania Trump is aware of the dangers of COVID-19. Potentially exposing others is not a risk she would take,” the official said.
U.S. stock index futures bounced on Monday amid hints of Trump’s potential release and signs of progress with a new fiscal stimulus bill. Wall Street’s main indexes slumped on Friday after Trump’s announcement that he had COVID-19.
A return to the White House might help Trump project a sense of normalcy in his difficult battle to win re-election on Nov. 3.
Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, on Sunday acknowledged that Trump’s condition had been worse than previously admitted. Conley said Trump had run a high fever on Friday morning and he had been given supplemental oxygen after his blood oxygen levels had dropped.
Doctors not involved in Trump’s treatment said the president’s condition might be worse than Conley let on. As an overweight, elderly man, Trump is in a category that is more likely to develop severe complications or die from the disease.
Biden, 77, has tested negative for the disease several times since sharing a debate stage with Trump last Tuesday. He is due to resume in-person campaigning on Monday in Florida, where opinion polls show a tight race in a crucial battleground for the Nov. 3 election.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Scott Malone, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Bernadette Baum