Information about President Trump’s condition has been incomplete, confusing and, at times, contradictory since early Friday morning when the commander in chief announced that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Trump’s medical team, led by White House physician Sean Conley, has been criticized for painting a rosy portrait of Trump’s condition Saturday, without disclosing that the president had been given supplemental oxygen or put on a steroid that is usually reserved for severely ill coronavirus patients.
“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had,” Conley said. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. … The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”
[Trump returns to White House, downplaying virus that hospitalized him]
Conley and his team cleared Trump to be discharged from the hospital Monday evening, though many experts note that the president is still at a stage in the illness when patients are prone to unexpected complications, and Conley himself acknowledged that he wouldn’t take a “final deep sigh of relief” until early next week.
Mixed signals on the severity of Trump’s illness
Trump and his doctors have repeatedly assured the public that all is well, though Robert Wachter, chairman of the University of California at San Francisco’s department of medicine, told The Washington Post that, based on the details we know about the president’s hospitalization and treatment, it seemed unwise to discharge him from the hospital.
“For someone sick enough to have required remdesivir and dexamethasone, I can’t think of a situation in which a patient would be okay to leave on Day 3, even with the White House’s medical capacity,” he said.
Conley and his team have also refused to discuss the president’s lung scans, saying only that “there’s some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern.”
Statements are from Trump’s doctors, President Trump or other White House officials.
Friday Oct. 2 Friday evening “I’m going to Walter Reed hospital. I think I’m doing very well.”— President Trump Saturday Oct. 3 Saturday morning “At this time, the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made. Thursday he had a mild cough, and some nasal congestion, and fatigue, all of which are now resolving and improving.”— Sean Conley Saturday evening “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.”— Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff Saturday night “President Trump continues to do well, having made substantial progress since diagnosis. This evening he completed the second dose of Remdesivir without complication.”— Sean Conley Sunday Oct. 4 Sunday morning “The president has experienced two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation ... It was the determination of the team ... that we initiate Dexamethasone.”— Sean Conley Sunday morning “[Asked why he was previously reluctant to disclose treatment details] I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, that his course of illness has had ... so, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”— Sean Conley Monday Oct. 5 Monday afternoon “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”— President Trump Monday afternoon “Though he may not entirely be out of the woods yet, the team and I agree that all our evaluations, and most importantly his clinical status, support the president’s safe return home.”— Sean Conley Monday evening “I went and I didn’t feel so good, and two days ago, I could’ve left two days ago. I felt great … Maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.”— President Trump Tuesday Oct. 6 Tuesday afternoon “[Trump] had a restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms.”— Sean Conley Wednesday Oct. 7 Wednesday afternoon “He’s now been … symptom-free for over 24 hours.”— Sean Conley
Unclear timeline of the initial diagnosis
The timing of the president’s first positive test — and most recent negative test — still have not been disclosed by the White House. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Trump tested positive via a rapid test Thursday evening but the White House waited for the results of a more reliable nasal swab test before disclosing anything.
Trump was required to get a negative test result when he arrived in Cleveland for the debate last week, though enforcement of that rule was only through the honor system, and the White House will not definitively say that he did.
Conley sowed further confusion over the initial timeline when he suggested that Trump’s diagnosis could have come as early as Wednesday, a statement he has since clarified.
Friday Oct. 2 Early Friday morning “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately.”— President Trump Saturday Oct. 3 Saturday morning “Just 72 hours into the diagnosis now, the first week of COVID, and in particular day seven to 10 are the most critical in determining the likely course of this illness.”— Sean Conley Saturday morning “[Asked how and when Trump became infected] We’re not going to go into that. We’re just tracking his clinical course and providing the best care we can.”— Sean Conley Saturday afternoon “This morning while summarizing the President’s health, I incorrectly used the term “seventy two hours” instead of “day three” and “forty eight hours” instead of “day two” with regards to his diagnosis and the administration of the polyclonal antibody therapy.”— Sean Conley Sunday Oct. 4 Sunday evening “I’m not going to give you a detailed readout with timestamps of every time the president is tested. He’s tested regularly and the first positive test he received was after his return from Bedminster.”— Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary
Confusion on Trump’s oxygen levels
At Saturday’s news conference, Conley and his team seemed very careful not to outright say that Trump had never been given supplemental oxygen, just that he had not been given any that day. But on Sunday, Conley revealed that the president’s oxygen levels had dropped twice and that he had been given oxygen, although it wasn’t immediately clear how many times it had been administered.
Several news outlets reported on Saturday that Trump received supplemental oxygen Friday before being flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, information that Conley finally confirmed on Sunday.
Friday Oct. 2 Friday night “This evening I am happy to report that the President is doing very well. He is not requiring any supplemental oxygen …”— Sean Conley Sunday Oct. 4 Sunday morning “Late Friday morning … his oxygen saturation was transiently dipping below 94% … I recommended the President we try some supplemental oxygen … Stayed on that for about an hour, maybe, and it was off and gone.”— Sean Conley
Careful words about Trump’s fever
The White House has also stumbled over even small details, such as when and if Trump was running a fever. The messaging, however, has been consistent on one thing: that he has been fever-free since Friday.
Saturday Oct. 3 Saturday morning “Thursday he had a mild cough, and some nasal congestion, and fatigue, all of which are now resolving and improving.”— Sean Conley Saturday morning “It’s important to note the president has been fever-free for over 24 hours. We remain cautiously optimistic. But he’s doing great … I’d rather not give any specific numbers, but he did have a fever Thursday into Friday. And since Friday morning, he’s had none.”— Sean Conley Sunday Oct. 4 Sunday morning “Thursday night into Friday morning, when I left the bedside, the President was doing well with only mild symptoms … Late Friday morning, when I returned to the bedside, President had a high fever”— Sean Conley Monday Oct. 5 Monday afternoon “The president continues to do very well … temperature of 98.1.”— Sean Dooley
The coronavirus diagnosis is not the first time the White House has failed to clearly explain Trump’s health; questions remain about an unplanned visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2019.