Washington, Oct 4 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump briefly left the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday to make a surprise in-car visit to greet supporters who had gathered outside, a decision that sparked criticism from medical officials, among others.
Trump, wearing a suit and a facemask and with the windows of the armored presidential SUV closed, greeted the people who had gathered outside the hospital where he has been treated for Covid-19 since last Friday, many of them holding signs with Trump’s name and messages of support for the president.
Two Secret Service agents, also wearing facemasks, accompanied Trump in his vehicle during his brief sojourn.
The trip was not announced and not even the group of White House reporters who are regularly on hand to report on the president were advised of the visit in advance.
Trump announced his trip outside the hospital complex in a video posted on Twitter shortly after 5 pm, saying: “I also think we’re going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street. They’ve been out there for a long time and they’ve got Trump flags and they love our country.”
“It’s been a very interesting journey, I learned a lot about COVID,” Trump said in his pre-recorded remarks. “I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the let’s-read-the-book school, and I get it, and I understand it.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump returned to his hospital suite after his “short, last-minute ride to wave to his supporters.”
The president said that while he has been at Walter Reed he had the chance to meet with soldiers and emergency personnel, despite the fact that medical experts say that a Covid-19 patient should remain in complete isolation.
James Philips, the physician in charge of residents at Walter Reed, on Twitter harshly criticized Trump’s decision to briefly leave the hospital, saying: “Every single person in the (hermetically sealed) vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
Philips is also the chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University Emergency Medicine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people sick with Covid-19 or who have recently come in contact with an infected person should refrain from all transportation options “that may put them in close contact with others.”
The White House Correspondents Association issued a statement in which it criticized the president’s team for not announcing Trump’s SUV tour to reporters in advance.
“It is outrageous for the president to have left the hospital – even briefly – amid a health crisis without a protective pool present to ensure that the American people know where their president is and how he is doing,” WHCA chief Zeke Miller, adding “Now more than ever, the American public deserves independent coverage of the president so they can be reliably informed about his health.”
Trump entered Walter Reed Hospital on Friday afternoon after testing positive for the coronavirus and experiencing a drop in his blood oxygenation level, a situation in which doctors at the White House put him on supplemental oxygen.
Since that time, the president reportedly has improved, according to his medical team, and although he registered a second drop in blood oxygen level he has mostly experienced only slight symptoms of the sometimes deadly viral disease that has infected some seven million Americans and killed more than 200,000 in the US.
Doctors attending Trump said earlier on Sunday that the president might be able to be released from the hospital on Monday and continue his antiviral and steroid treatment at the White House.