Washington, Oct 5 (efe-epa).- White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Monday morning that administration officials are “still optimistic” that President Donald Trump could be released later in the day from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he has been treated since Friday afternoon after testing positive for the coronavirus.
“Spoke to the President this morning. He continued to improve over night and is ready to get back to a normal working schedule,” Meadows said in a statement to Fox News.
“He will meet with his doctors and nurses this morning to make further assessments of his progress,” Meadows added. “We are still optimistic that he will be able to return to the White House later today.”
However, later in another interview on “Fox & Friends,” Meadows said that the “determination has not been made yet” to release the president from the hospital, adding that a final decision “won’t be made until later” on Monday.
“The doctors will actually have an evaluation some time late morning. And then the president, in consultation with the doctors, will make a decision on whether to discharge him later today,” Meadows said.
The chief of staff said that Trump understands what millions of Americans have had to face – and more than seven million US residents have been diagnosed with Covid-19 over the past six months – but he also knows the country needs to keep working on a vaccine for the sometimes deadly disease.
Trump entered Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, on the outskirts of Washington, 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 has been taking the antiviral medication Remdesivir and steroids to deal with the symptoms, which initially included a high fever, and his medical team says that he has improved, and although he registered a second drop in blood oxygen level he has mostly experienced only slight symptoms of the viral disease that has killed more than 200,000 in the US.
Meadows said that ultimately it will be Trump himself who will make the decision whether or not to leave the hospital.
Trump has tried to project an image of strength during his hospital stay and on Sunday he 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.”
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.”
At least a dozen people around Trump have been diagnosed with Covid-19 within the past few days, including first lady Melania Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former advisor Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign director Bill Stepien, the head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, and three GOP senators.
The most probable scenario is that all these people – and perhaps others who have not yet been diagnosed with the highly communicable disease – were infected at a Sept. 26 event in the White House garden to present Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a ceremony attended by at least seven of those who have recently been diagnosed with Covid-19.