‘Next 48 hours critical’: Contradictory views on Trump’s Covid progress

Doctor ‘extremely happy’, but source close to president strikes a more negative note

White House physician Sean Conley has said the president "is doing well" as he provided a first substantive update on the health of President Donald Trump since he was admitted to hospital on Friday night after contracting Covid-19.

“At this time the team and I are extremely happy with the progress,” he said. Mr Trump originally had a fever and cough, “all of which are resolving and improving”.

“Has been fever-free for over 24 hours... we remain cautiously optimistic, but he’s doing great.”

However, while Mr Conley said that Mr Trump’s condition was improving, a source close to the president 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.”

Mr Conley said Mr Trump was not on supplementary oxygen, but he refused to clarify whether the president had been put on extra oxygen at any point since his hospitalisation. “Right now, all indicators are that he will remain off oxygen going forward.”

Mr Conley confirmed that Mr Trump was tested on Thursday afternoon and a few hours later it was confirmed he had tested positive. He also said it had been 72 hours since his diagnosis, suggesting a different time-line.

In a statement later issued by the White House, Mr Conley said that he had incorrectly used the term “72 hours” instead of “day three” and the term “48 hours” instead of “day two” in his comments.

Asked why the decision had been taken to transfer him to hospital, Mr Conley replied: "Because he's the president of the United States. "

On Mr Trump’s risk factors, he said that the president “is 74, he’s male and he’s slightly overweight” but that his cholesterol and blood pressure are “great”.

He declined to speculate on how long Mr Trump would remain at the Walter Reed Medical Center. "I don't want to put a hard date on that… every day we evaluate."

Medical team

Mr Conley was surrounded by Mr Trump’s medical team, who have been treating the president since his admission to Walter Reed on Friday evening.

The team revealed more details of Mr Trump's medication. He has been given a dose of Remdesivir, in addition to an experimental cocktail of antibodies developed by biotech company Regeneron, along with zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin.

Mr Trump also sent two tweets from the hospital saying that he was feeling “well” and praising the medical staff. “Tremendous progress has been made over the last 6 months in fighting this PLAGUE. With their help, I am feeling well!”

However, 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 now 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 Center.

Roughly 17 hours after he had made his diagnosis public, Mr Trump walked slowly from the White House to a waiting helicopter to be taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He wore a mask and business suit and did not speak to reporters.

"I think I'm doing very well, but we're going to make sure that things work out," Mr Trump said in a brief video message posted on Twitter. Early on Friday, he had tweeted that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had contracted the virus.

Mr Trump will work in a special suite at the hospital for the next few days as a precautionary measure, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

In a tweet late on Friday, the president wrote: “Going well, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”


The diagnosis was the latest setback for the Republican president, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the November 3rd presidential election.

Mr Trump has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, even as the disease has killed more than 200,000 Americans and hammered the US economy.

Mr Trump is at high risk because of his age and weight. He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.

Stocks on Wall Street closed lower as news of Mr Trump’s diagnosis added to mounting uncertainties surrounding the election.

British prime minister Boris Johnson, who was himself hospitalised with Covid-19 in April, said on Saturday he had no doubt Mr Trump would make a strong recovery.

"He's a naturally obviously very resilient character and I'm sure he'll come through it very well," Mr Johnson told reporters.

Chinese president Xi Jinping, joining well-wishers at home and abroad, sent a message to Mr Trump and his wife on Saturday, wishing them a speedy recovery, Chinese state television reported.

Election day

With just 31 days to go until election day, Mr Trump’s campaign said it would postpone rallies and other events where he was scheduled to appear, or take them online.

Mr Biden pulled ads attacking Mr Trump off the air but otherwise continued his campaign, travelling to Michigan on Friday after testing negative for the virus.

At a union hall in Grand Rapids, Mr Biden said he was praying for his rival's recovery. However, he also implicitly criticised Mr Trump, who has mocked Mr Biden for routinely wearing a mask and has held huge campaign rallies with little social distancing.

“Be patriotic,” Mr Biden said. “It’s not about being a tough guy. It’s about doing your part.”

The Republican National Committee would choose a replacement presidential nominee if Mr Trump were to become incapacitated, but it is too late in most states to change the names on the ballot. Some 2.9 million people have already voted, according to figures compiled by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.– additional reporting: Reuters

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

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