Covid-hit Trump could be out of hospital on Monday, say medics

US president had two episodes of drops in oxygen levels on Friday and a high fever

US president Donald Trump may be discharged from hospital on Monday if his condition improves, his medical team has said, as more details of his coronavirus infection were revealed.

Speaking outside the Walter Reed Medical Center, where Mr Trump is spending a third day, White House physician Sean Conley said "since we spoke last, the president has continued to improve".

"If he continues to look and feel as well as he does today our hope is that we can plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House, where he can continue his treatment course," Dr Brian Garibaldi said.

Mr Conley gave more details of Mr Trump’s health over the past few days, confirming the president was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday for about an hour, and a small dosage of oxygen on Saturday.

He said the president had two episodes of “transient drops in his oxygen saturation levels” on Friday, and had a high fever. Mr Trump’s oxygen levels also dropped again on Saturday, he said.

The latest update on the president’s Covid-19 status comes after a day of mixed messages from the White House. During his briefing on Saturday morning, Mr Conley said it had been 72 hours since the president’s diagnosis – suggesting a different timeline than had been publicly known about when the president tested positive for coronavirus.

Clarification issued

He then issued a clarification stating that he misspoke, and that he used the term "72 hours" rather than "third day". Further, chief of staff Mark Meadows struck a more negative note in comments to the press shortly after the medical briefing.

“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,” he told reporters.

Asked yesterday who the public should believe – Mr Conley or Mr Meadows – Mr Conley said he had been trying to reflect an “upbeat attitude”.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, the course of illness, has had,” he said. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.”

He said that Mr Meadows’s comments had been misconstrued, but he declined to answer questions about Mr Trump’s lung scans.

Mr Trump released a four-minute video on Saturday night, stating he was “starting to feel good”, but adding: “Over the next few days I guess that will be the real test.”

He said he wanted to continue working: “I have to be back because we still have to make America great again... we have to finish that job.”

The White House also released two photographs late on Saturday night of the president working on documents in an office in the multi-room presidential suite of the Walter Reed centre.

Throughout the weekend, supporters carrying Trump2020 flags have gathered outside the hospital, about eight miles north of the White House

‘Law and order’

One supporter, Daniel Kiely, a third-generation Irish-American whose family come from Tarbert, Co Kerry, had come to show his support for the president. "He's here to protect the constitution of the United States, law and order… he can be a little over the top at times, but he has to, because of all of the invective that has been foisted upon him. He's only in defence mode," he said.

Meanwhile, the web of people in the president’s circle so far known to have been infected with coronavirus has expanded over the past 24 hours.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, former adviser Kellyanne Conway (who attended a ceremony announcing Amy Coney Barrett as the president's pick for Supreme Court last Saturday), and three senators have all tested positive. In addition, former governor Chris Christie, who helped prepare Mr Trump for Tuesday night's debate in the White House, announced on Saturday he had also tested positive.

Vice-president Mike Pence tested negative again on Saturday morning, his officials said, and the Trump campaign announced he will take part in a campaign event in Arizona on Thursday. Under the constitution, Mr Pence would assume power if the president is incapacitated, though the White House has said there has been no transfer of power and the president continues to work from the presidential offices in the Walter Reed centre.

Higher risk

Mr Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than seven million people nationwide and killed more than 200,000 people in the US.

The administration has consistently been less than transparent about the president’s health as the virus spread inside the White House.

Aides declined to share basic health information about the president, including a full accounting of his symptoms, what tests he has undertaken and the results.

The first word that a close aide to Mr Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. – Additional reporting: AP

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent