President Donald Trump drove by cheering supporters in a motorcade on Sunday evening, waving from the back seat while wearing a black mask, and giving the crowd a thumbs-up.
“We’re getting great reports from the doctors,” Trump said in an earlier video on Twitter
while standing, appearing upbeat. “This is an incredible hospital, Walter Reed. The work they do is just absolutely amazing, and I want to thank them all.”
Trump, 74, was moved from the White House to Walter Reed medical center late Friday, the same day that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus. His medical regimen highlighted how the president is in a high-risk group for more serious illness from COVID-19.
‘Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days.’
Fox News journalist Lou Dobbs tweeted his support for the president, if not his decision to leave the hospital. “Gotta love our President! A bad patient, but a great leader.”
James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, speculated to CNN that Trump is likely concerned about optics, particularly given that he’s in the middle of an election campaign. “Let’s hope this comports with his rate of improvement,” he said.
However, James Phillips, doctor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, who is also an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted his dismay at the president leaving his hospital room to greet supporters from his motorcade.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” he said. “They might get sick. They may die.” Phillips said, “For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
Phillips added, “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.”
Jonathan Reiner, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at The George Washington University Hospital and a professor of Medicine at The George Washington University Medical Center, also expressed concern at the president leaving the hospital in light of his condition.
“In the hospital when we go into close contact with a Covid patient we dress in full PPE: Gown, gloves, N95, eye protection, hat. This is the height of irresponsibility,” he said.
The president also received supplemental oxygen at least once, and dexamethasone, Dr. Sean Conley, Trump’s physician, said Sunday. Dexamethasone is a common steroid that has demonstrated in clinical trials in the U.K. that it can reduce mortality in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
‘Gotta love our President! A bad patient, but a great leader.’
Asked by a reporter at a news conference outside Walter Reed Sunday why he appeared to underplay certain aspects of the president’s condition, Conley replied, “That’s a good question. So I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, that 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, it came off that we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”
He added, “The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well …He is responding, and as the team said, if everything continues to go well, we’re going to start discharge planning back to the White House.”
Dexamethasone is a type of corticosteroid that has been considered a treatment only for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
“Corticosteroids also appear to be associated with benefit among critically ill patients with COVID-19 whether they are receiving mechanical ventilation or oxygen without mechanical ventilation,” researchers wrote in September in a JAMA editorial.
Still, Trump appeared upbeat in his video address on Twitter on Sunday evening. Observers said it could indeed be an indication of his improved condition, or a temporary boost of energy from steroids he has received. Health professionals caution of the perniciousness of COVID-19, which they say is unpredictable and can leave the patient feeling up one day, but much worse the next.
See Trump’s motorcade outside Walter Reed:
For his part, the president said he wanted to show his gratitude to his supporters. “I’ve also gotten to meet some of the soldiers and first responders and what a group,” Trump said during his video statement on Sunday. “I also think we’re going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots we have on the street, and they’ve been out there for a long time.”
“They’ve got Trump flags and they love our country, and I’m not telling anybody but you, but I’m about to make a surprise visit so perhaps I’ll get there before you get to see me,” he added.
Also Sunday, Trump also said he’s learning a lot about COVID-19 during his stay at Walter reed. “But when I look at the enthusiasm and we’ve had enthusiasm probably like nobody’s ever had,” the president added. “It’s been a very interesting journey. I’ve learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school.”
“This is the real school,” Trump added. “This isn’t the ‘let’s read the book’ school, and I get it and I understand it, and it’s a very interesting thing and I’m going to be letting you know about it.”
COVID-19 has now infected 35 million people worldwide
As of Monday, COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,037,122 people worldwide, and 209,725 in the U.S., according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (7,418,107), just ahead of India (6,623,815) and Brazil (4,915,289). Worldwide, there has been at least 35,163,114 confirmed cases, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases.
Several companies in the U.S. and overseas are working on a vaccine. AstraZeneca
, in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
and partner Pfizer
; Johnson & Johnson
; Merck & Co.
; and Sanofi
are among those working to get a vaccine through trials, in the hope one will be read in and/or by 2021.
The Dow Jones Industrial Index
the S&P 500
and the Nasdaq Composite
all closed lower Friday in the wake of the president’s diagnosis; the Nasdaq was down 2.2% at day’s end.
Doubts about traction for further fiscal stimulus from Washington may be another factor discouraging investors who have been betting on Republicans and Democrats striking a deal to offer additional relief.