White House Doctor With History of Misleading Statements Says Trump Likely Ready for ‘Public Engagements’ Saturday


White House physician Sean Conley updates reporters on the president's health on Oct. 5, 2020. SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump‘s doctor said Thursday that the president had completed his course of treatment after testing positive for COVID-19 and could most likely participate in public events safely starting Saturday. However, the statement follows a history of false or misleading updates on the president’s health from White House officials and physicians and contradicts statements made by his health team earlier in the week.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus late last week, and the president spent the weekend in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center receiving treatment. However, his medical team, including White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, have been criticized for painting an overly rosy picture of his health over the course of his illness, The Washington Post pointed out. On Saturday, they did not mention that the president had been treated with additional oxygen or that he had been given a steroid usually prescribed for severe cases. Some health experts also said his team discharged him from the hospital too early on Monday.

“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,” Robert Wachter, chairman of the University of California at San Francisco’s department of medicine, told The Washington Post at the time.

Now, Conley is saying that Trump responded “extremely well” to treatment and may be able to mingle with the public as soon as Saturday, Reuters reported.

“Since returning home, his physical exam has remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness,” Conley wrote in a memo released by the White House. “Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the president’s safe return to public engagements at that time.”

This contradicts Conley’s own assessment of the president’s health on Monday, as NPR pointed out.

“So we’re looking to this weekend, if we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same or improving better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief,” Conley said at the time.

Conley’s remarks were also made the same day that NBC News revealed that medical staff at Walter Reed had been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements when Trump visited the hospital in November 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 self-isolate for at least 10 days after testing positive or first experiencing symptoms. One should also not interact with others unless one has gone 24 hours without a fever and without taking fever-reducing medication. However, the agency notes that anyone with severe COVID-19 may need to self-isolate for longer than 10 days and as long as 20. Because it is unclear how severe Trump’s illness was, it is also unclear how long he should self-isolate.

Conley did not say whether Trump has been tested again or would be tested before reappearing in public, according to NPR. White House officials have also refused to say when he last tested negative before his diagnosis, The New York Times reported.

However, in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday, Trump said he would likely take a test on Friday, as Reuters reported.

In the interview, Trump said he felt “very well.” However, The Guardian pointed out that he sounded hoarse and paused throughout to cough.

“I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night if we can, if we have enough time to put it together,” Trump told Hannity.

Trump has been criticized for his handling of the virus, both before and during his illness.

After testing positive, he drove in an SUV with two Secret Service agents in order to greet supporters outside Walter Reed, an act some health experts said put the agents at unnecessary risk. He also downplayed the coronavirus by comparing it to the flu on Tuesday, something he has done throughout the pandemic.

The coronavirus has so far infected more than 7.6 million U.S. residents and killed 212,789, according to the most recent figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Including the president and first lady, nearly two dozen close affiliates of the White House have tested positive for COVID-19 as of this week, NPR reported.

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