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.
[Trump returns to White House, downplaying virus that hospitalized him]
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.