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President Trump’s condition has “improved,” according to White House physician Sean Conley, but the president experienced significant oxygen drops on Friday and Saturday and was given dexamethasone — a steroid that is typically reserved only for severely ill coronavirus patients.

Trump’s doctors said he has had no fever since Friday morning, however, and could be discharged as early as Monday. Conley declined to answer questions about the president’s lungs, including whether there is scarring or whether Trump has pneumonia.

Aides and doctors have sowed confusion in recent days about Trump’s health status and the timeline of his treatment and diagnosis. The White House on Sunday falsely suggested that doctors did not previously disclose Trump’s use of supplemental oxygen because they lacked the information.

Later Sunday, Trump made a surprise visit to supporters, waving to them from inside an SUV that slowly drove past the crowds gathered outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The outing alarmed Secret Service agents and medical professionals, including a doctor affiliated with Walter Reed who said others in the vehicle were risking their lives for “political theater.”

Here are some significant developments:
  • Joe Biden tested negative for the third time since he was potentially exposed at Tuesday’s presidential debate, his campaign said Sunday night. The Democratic nominee is not yet in the clear, however, because most people incubate the virus for two to 14 days before testing positive or showing symptoms.
  • Conley is drawing mounting scrutiny for his rosy assessments of Trump’s health.
  • The president says he had no choice but to risk his own health. A large majority of Americans disagree.
  • The White House gave more than 200 names to officials tracing attendees at a campaign fundraiser held at Trump’s New Jersey golf club hours before the president’s diagnosis became public, state authorities said Sunday.
  • Trump’s illness halted his campaign just when it needed an October boost.
  • The prospect of Trump’s early hospital discharge has mystified doctors.
October 4, 2020 at 10:01 PM EDT
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White House aides urged to stay home if they have symptoms

By Josh Dawsey and Hannah Knowles

White House aides were urged in a Sunday night email to stay home if they have coronavirus symptoms, as the Trump administration grapples with a widening circle of infections.

“As a reminder, if you are experiencing any symptoms such as sore throat, cough, fever, headache, new loss of taste or smell, muscle aches, chills, diarrhea, or difficult breathing, please stay home and do not come to work until you are free of any symptoms,” reads the email from the White House Management Office.

Staff were told to “go home immediately” and see their primary care provider if they develop symptoms at work. They were instructed not to go to the White House Medical Unit clinic for testing.

“If you or your colleagues feel that you should be practicing telework or have questions about your ability to do so, please contact your supervisor,” the email adds.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not say earlier Sunday how many staffers have tested positive for the virus, citing privacy concerns.

October 4, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT
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White House physician draws scrutiny for rosy assessments of Trump’s health

By Carol D. Leonnig and Robert O'Harrow

This spring, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley confided to co-workers that he was laboring under intense personal stress in his job as White House physician.

The 40-year-old doctor is responsible for the world’s most high-profile patient: a president who has insisted on holding public events amid a global pandemic and rarely donned a mask, overriding the advice of his own health officials.

Without sharing details, the White House’s top medical officer said the pressures of the job were weighing on him, according to two people familiar with his remarks.

Conley now finds himself at the epicenter of the most acute crisis to confront a White House physician in decades: President Trump’s hospitalization after contracting a lethal virus whose risks the president has repeatedly minimized. Conley’s handling of the situation has come under intense criticism after he gave a rosy pronouncement of Trump’s status Saturday without disclosing that the president had been given supplemental oxygen or put on a steroid reserved for severely ill coronavirus patients.

October 4, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT
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Aides call Trump’s drive an unnecessary risk, as White House defends outing

By Josh Dawsey and Hannah Knowles

Multiple aides called Trump’s Sunday drive outside the hospital an unnecessary risk but said the move was not surprising, as White House spokesman Judd Deere defended the outing, telling reporters that “appropriate precautions were taken.”

The trip drew criticism from Secret Service agents and from doctors, who said it put others in the car at risk, exposing them to a coronavirus patient in an enclosed space. Trump wore a mask as he waved to the crowd outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, but experts said they were still deeply concerned.

Trump had said he was bored in the hospital and was buoyed by crowds outside, advisers said. Campaign and White House officials said the president wanted to show strength after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows offered a grimmer assessment of his health than doctors provided at a Saturday news briefing.

“Optics matter right now,” said one senior aide close to Meadows, adding: “Shows of strength and resilience are crucial. For the American public, but also those watching abroad.”

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Deere told reporters that “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the President and all those supporting it.”

He said precautions included personal protective equipment and added that the trip “was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”

He did not answer other questions, including whether the president requested the drive.

October 4, 2020 at 8:03 PM EDT
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Sen. Tillis’s symptom have improved, his office says

By Seung Min Kim and Hannah Knowles

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — one of several Republican senators who have recently tested positive for the coronavirus — is “feeling well” and has seen his symptoms improve, his office said Sunday.

Tillis is still isolating at home, his office said in a statement.

“His mild symptoms from yesterday have significantly improved and the only lingering symptom is the loss of his sense of taste and smell,” the statement read.

Tillis is among at least seven infected people who were at a Rose Garden event where the president announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Other attendees who tested positive for the coronavirus include Tillis’s colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has said the group’s confirmation hearing for Barrett later this month will continue as scheduled, despite Democrats’ calls to postpone in light of members’ infections.

October 4, 2020 at 8:01 PM EDT
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Secret Service agents outraged by Trump’s drive outside hospital

By Carol D. Leonnig

A growing number of Secret Service agents have been concerned about the president’s seeming indifference to the health risks they face when traveling with him in public.

A few reacted with outrage to his Sunday night drive outside the hospital where he is being treated for the novel coronavirus, asking how Trump’s desire to be seen outside of his hospital suite justified the jeopardy to agents protecting the president.

The president, who wore a mask, waved to a crowd from the back of the vehicle after announcing that he would “pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street.” Doctors immediately criticized the jaunt outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, saying the president had put everyone inside the vehicle at risk.

“He’s not even pretending to care now,” one agent said after the trip.

“Where are the adults?” said a former agent.

They spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.

The White House did not immediately provide information about any precautions taken to protect Secret Service members.

October 4, 2020 at 7:58 PM EDT
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Biden tests negative for third time since debate, campaign says

By Annie Linskey

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tested negative for the novel coronavirus on Sunday, according to his campaign, his third negative test since he shared a debate stage for more than 90 minutes with President Trump, who has been hospitalized with the infection.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” according to a statement the campaign issued to reporters at 7:16 p.m.

Biden’s campaign has said that he is regularly tested for the virus, but his operation has not previously been providing details about how often he gets tested or what type of test is used. Campaign officials had said they would only release results if Biden tested positive.

October 4, 2020 at 7:06 PM EDT
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Asked for number of White House staff infected, press secretary cites privacy concerns

By Hannah Knowles

Asked Sunday evening if she knows how many White House staffers are infected with the coronavirus, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited privacy concerns, hours after another aide said the information would be made public.

Earlier in the day, White House communications director Alyssa Farah said the number of positive tests would be shared. But when McEnany was asked about the matter, she said: “No, there are privacy concerns we take very seriously safeguarding the information of the personnel here in the White House. So that’s basically where we stand right now.”

McEnany also declined to give details on when the president was tested for the virus.

Asked whether Trump was tested Tuesday before the presidential debate and Thursday before heading to a fundraiser at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, McEnany said she would not provide “a detailed readout with timestamps every time the president’s tested.”

“He’s tested regularly and the first positive test he received was after his return from Bedminster,” she said.

October 4, 2020 at 6:30 PM EDT
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‘This is insanity’: Doctors aghast at Trump’s ‘surprise’ SUV tour

By Hannah Knowles

Medical professionals reacted with horror Sunday to President Trump’s decision to leave the hospital in an SUV for an impromptu tour, calling the move irresponsible and saying others in the car are risking their lives for “political theater.”

Among the critics: a doctor affiliated with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Trump is receiving treatment.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweeted James P. Phillips, who is also a professor at George Washington University. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Phillips said that the risk of viral transmission inside the car is “as high as it gets outside of medical procedures.”

The president could be seen wearing a mask as he waved to a crowd from the back of the vehicle, after announcing that he would “pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street.” But experts said that was little comfort.

Masks “help, but they are not an impenetrable force field,” tweeted Saad B. Omer, the director of Yale’s Institute for Global Health.

Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, also blasted Trump’s move as “the height of irresponsibility.” Reiner noted that people inside a hospital wear extensive protective gear — gowns, gloves, N95 masks and more — when they will be in close contact with a coronavirus patient such as Trump.

“By taking a joy ride outside Walter Reed the president is placing his Secret Service detail at grave risk,” he tweeted.

The White House did not immediately provide details on any precautions taken to protect Secret Service members.

October 4, 2020 at 5:55 PM EDT
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Barr again tests negative and is ‘self-quarantining,’ spokeswoman says

By Matt Zapotosky

Attorney General William P. Barr again tested negative for the coronavirus on Sunday — his fourth negative test since Friday — and is “self-quarantining,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

Barr, who was without a mask and in the same room as Trump on Sept. 26 at a reception for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, went to a meeting at the Justice Department on Friday but stayed home over the weekend and plans to do so again Monday, said Kerri Kupec, the spokeswoman.

Barr is expected to return to the department by midweek, Kupec said.

October 4, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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In surprise visit, Trump waves to supporters outside Walter Reed from inside vehicle

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump made a surprise visit to supporters outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., late Sunday afternoon, waving from inside a vehicle that drove by the crowd.

Footage on CNN showed the president, wearing a face mask and seated in the back of a black SUV, waving to supporters as the motorcade passed by the crowd.

Trump announced the move in a video posted to Twitter minutes earlier, hailing the “absolutely amazing” work of the doctors and staff at the hospital.

“I also think we’re going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street. And they’ve been out there for a long time, and they’ve got Trump flags, and they love our country. So, I’m not telling anybody but you, but I’m about to make a little surprise visit,” Trump said in the video.

“Perhaps I’ll get there before you get to see me,” he added. “But when I look at the enthusiasm … we have more enthusiasm than maybe anybody.”

In the video, Trump also referenced his time in the hospital, telling supporters, “It’s been a very interesting journey.”

“I learned a lot about covid,” he said. “I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. 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.”

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement that Trump “took a short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters outside and has now returned to the Presidential Suite inside Walter Reed.”

The White House did not immediately provide any details on what, if any, precautions were taken to protect members of the Secret Service who were in the vehicle with Trump.

October 4, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
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Pence and second lady tested negative again Sunday, official says

By Seung Min Kim and Hannah Knowles

Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the coronavirus again on Sunday morning, an administration official said, days ahead of the vice-presidential debate and a campaign event that Pence plans to attend in Arizona.

The Trump campaign announced that Pence will hold the Arizona event in person on Thursday, even as coronavirus infections and exposures rattle the White House.

Pence is also set to debate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, on Wednesday.

The Pences tested negative for the virus on Saturday as well, according to an administration official.

October 4, 2020 at 4:55 PM EDT
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White House gave more than 200 names to officials tracing attendees at Trump golf club event

By Hannah Knowles

The White House has given New Jersey officials the names of more than 200 people who were at Trump’s Bedminster golf club for a campaign fundraiser held hours before his coronavirus diagnosis became public, the New Jersey Department of Health said Sunday.

The department tweeted that it has reached out to these people “to make them aware of possible exposure and recommend that they self-monitor for symptoms and quarantine if they were in close contact with the President and his staff.” Authorities are interviewing club staff and giving guidance based on their level of interaction with Trump’s team, it said. Those who had been in close contact should quarantine for 14 days.

State officials have been told that the federal government is also doing contact tracing, the department said.

Health officials are advising attendees to “consider waiting” at least five to seven days past the event before getting tested for the coronavirus, because they could develop covid-19, the disease the virus causes, despite a negative test earlier on.

Officials in several states where Trump recently held events have said that they have not heard from the White House or have been doing contact tracing largely on their own following news of the president’s illness. In New Jersey, authorities previously got a guest list for Thursday’s event in Bedminster from the Republican National Committee.

Some attendees took pictures with the president and were indoors with him for a roundtable.

October 4, 2020 at 4:31 PM EDT
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Biden to hold events in Miami’s Little Haiti and Little Havana on Monday

By Felicia Sonmez

Joe Biden on Monday is traveling to Florida, where he and his wife, Jill, will hold events focused on Miami’s Haitian American and Cuban American communities.

The Bidens will first visit the Little Haiti Cultural Center, according to the campaign. They will then head to Little Havana, where the former vice president and his wife are expected to deliver remarks on “building back the economy better for the Hispanic community and working families.”

On Monday night, the presidential candidate will participate in an NBC News town hall in Miami, while Jill Biden will attend a Women for Biden drive-in rally in Boca Raton.

Senior Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders said Sunday that the former vice president is “being tested regularly” for the novel coronavirus. The campaign has not released additional information.

October 4, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT
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Analysis: 5 big questions on the White House’s botched handling of Trump’s diagnosis

By Philip Bump

On Saturday, White House physician Sean Conley stepped forward ostensibly to provide some clarity on the condition of the coronavirus-stricken President Trump. As with the doctors who came before him, though, what we have gotten from him over the past 24 hours is decidedly not that.

Conley’s comments Saturday and at a follow-up briefing Sunday have combined with other conflicting signals to yet again provide a hazy and misleading picture of the president’s health. This time, we get it at a particularly precarious juncture in Trump’s presidency, when it’s literally a matter of national security.

As with previous flaps over Trump’s health, there is clearly tension between projecting the kind of strength he likes to see and providing actual, sober-minded details. As of Sunday afternoon, there are valid questions about whether anyone providing details of Trump’s health can be trusted.