WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said from his hospital room on Saturday that he felt “much better” but the next few days will be “the real test” of his treatment for COVID-19, capping a day of contradictory messages from the White House about his condition.
In a four-minute video posted on Twitter, Trump, looking tired and wearing a jacket and open-necked shirt, said he “wasn’t feeling so well” when he first arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday.
“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, seated at a round table in front of an American flag.
Within minutes, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a less rosy assessment, telling them, “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.
Trump was flown from the White House to Walter Reed, near Washington, about 17 hours after he announced his illness. Administration officials, who described the move as precautionary, said he would stay at the hospital 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 hospitalise 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.
“Today’s spectacle – doctors saying one thing, White House sources saying another thing, and both later amending their statements – only reinforces the credibility problems of this administration,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
The diagnosis was the latest setback for the Republican president, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
With Trump in the hospital, his campaign announced “Operation MAGA,” based on his slogan “Make America Great Again,” which will see high-profile allies including Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s elder sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, take over in-person campaigning starting next week.
Pence, who tested negative on Friday, is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday before embarking on a swing through battleground states, the campaign said.
Biden, who largely avoided direct criticism of Trump during a campaign trip to Michigan on Friday, took a more aggressive tone on Saturday while speaking to a transit workers’ union on Saturday, even as he wished the president well.
“I’m in a little bit of a spot here, because I don’t want to be attacking the president and the first lady now,” Biden said, adding he hoped the Trumps make a full recovery.
But he quickly pivoted to Trump’s response to the pandemic, calling it “unconscionable” and blasting Trump’s comment in an interview this summer that “it is what it is” when asked about the death toll.
“I find this one of the most despicable things that I’ve encountered in my whole career,” Biden said.
Biden, who tested negative on Friday, told reporters he would next be tested on Sunday. His campaign will begin releasing the results of each test, a spokesman said.
The Democratic candidate has eschewed big events in favour of low-key appearances with few or no attendees, while Trump has held large rallies with little social distancing.
Biden has used Trump’s diagnosis to bolster his calls for people to wear masks, a practice that Trump has questioned.
Trump has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus pandemic this year, even as it has killed more than 200,000 Americans and hammered the US economy.
TRUMP AT RISK
Conley said Trump had received a first dose of a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences Inc that has been shown to shorten hospital stays.
He is also taking an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, one of several experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, Conley has said.
The president is at high risk because of his age and weight. He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.
A number of other prominent Republicans have also said they tested positive for COVID-19 since Trump’s announcement, including Republican Senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson, former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Christie said he checked himself in to a hospital on Saturday as a precaution due to his asthma, though he said he had only mild symptoms.
This article was first published in Asia One . All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.