Trump returns to White House despite mysteries around his health

Trump left Walter Reed Medical Center by helicopter on Monday evening, with Marine One touching down on the White House South Lawn about 15 minutes later. He walked out of Walter Reed under his own power, but did not take questions from reporters gathered outside.

Upon his return, Trump walked up the stairs to the White House wearing a white mask before taking it off on the balcony, standing for a few moments for a photo op before walking in without wearing the mask. Experts say that someone in Trump‘s progression of the virus is still likely contagious, and multiple people could be seen waiting for him on the other side of the entrance.

Trump’s discharge comes as the White House faces accusations of a lack of transparency about the severity of the president’s illness, and as the president has sought to project some semblance of normalcy despite contracting the virus.

It was a striking statement, even for a president who has repeatedly played down the threat of the virus throughout the pandemic, and worked to project normalcy and portray himself as undaunted by it throughout his stay in the hospital.

His administration, meanwhile, has been panned for its response to the pandemic more generally.

Trump was first transferred to Walter Reed on Friday evening out of what the White House said was an “abundance of caution.” His aides have since been eager to show that Trump is still carrying out the duties of the office despite his hospitalization.

But Sean Conley, the president’s physician, appeared to confirm Sunday that Trump’s condition is more serious than the White House had so far acknowledged.

And in a news briefing on Monday afternoon, Conley conceded that the president “may not be entirely out of the woods yet.”

But, he continued, “the team and I agree that all our evaluations — and most importantly his clinical status — support the president’s safe return home, where he’ll be supported by world-class medical care 24/7.”

Trump’s discharge comes at a potentially delicate time, as questions persist about his health.

Some patients see sharp declines about seven to 10 days after infection, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Covid-positive patients continue to self-isolate for 10 days after symptoms begin to emerge. Trump, whose age and weight increase his risk of severe disease, announced his diagnosis early Friday — four days ago.

The drugs Trump is receiving, and some of the details revealed by Trump’s medical team, suggest that the president has a moderate to severe case of Covid-19.

Trump has received two experimental drugs, care that many of the millions of Americans infected with the virus likely would not have had access to, as well as one steroid generally reserved for patients with severe or critical coronavirus cases.

Conley acknowledged on Monday that Trump was still at risk, telling reporters that the president’s medical team remained “cautiously optimistic and on guard,” in part because Trump was receiving a unique level of care. “We‘re in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to a patient who received the therapies he has so early in the course,” he explained.

A day earlier, the president’s medical team also revealed that Trump had received oxygen therapy twice for limited periods, and that his blood oxygen levels had dipped below 94 percent — a worrisome threshold for patients indicating a moderate or severe case of Covid-19.

On Monday, the physicians said that Trump‘s blood oxygen level had risen to 97 percent, and that the president was not having respiratory issues. He is also no longer running a fever, they said.

Trump’s assertion that there is little to fear from coronavirus comes as more than a dozen close allies and staffers have also tested positive for the virus, including, most recently on Monday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

And his return to the White House will take place hours after the CDC published new guidance officially confirming that the coronavirus is airborne and may be able to infect people who are more than six feet apart, especially indoors with poor ventilation.

Conley would not tell reporters how Trump’s medical team plans to quarantine the president within the building without posing a risk to others.

The White House has refused to reveal more detailed information about Trump’s Covid-19 tests over the course of the past week, and Conley was similarly evasive on Monday, refusing to answer reporters’ questions about when the president last received a negative coronavirus test or divulge any information about whether Trump’s lung scans showed any sign of pneumonia or damage from the disease.

Shortly after Trump disclosed that he would be leaving the hospital, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to hear a “trustworthy report” from his doctors, but questioned whether that was possible given the string of factual inconsistencies from the White House over the weekend.

“I hope that we can trust them,“ Pelosi said on MSNBC, “but what is disconcerting, we know that the president‘s physicians present a report that must be approved by the president. That’s not scientific.”

“He has to remember, though, that his words weigh a ton,” she said. “If he is acting frivolously with this virus — as he has been all along — this is dangerous for the American people. He should not be dealing with it politically, to make it seem that he has overcome the virus.”

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had said earlier Monday morning that officials were “still optimistic” the president would leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and return to the White House later in the day.

“Spoke to the President this morning. He continued to improve overnight 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.”

In a subsequent interview on “Fox & Friends,” Meadows cautioned that the “determination has not been made yet” to release Trump from the hospital, and said a final call “won’t be made until later today.”

“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.

Throughout the weekend, the president’s aides and doctors offered contradictory assessments of his health and the timeline of his infection.

For example, after Conley said Saturday morning that the president was “doing very well,” Meadows told reporters that Trump’s “vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning” and warned: “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

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