WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said in a video from his hospital room on Saturday that he felt “much better” and hoped to be “back soon,” after a day of contradictory messages from the White House about his condition following his COVID-19 diagnosis.
In a four-minute video posted on Twitter, Trump, looking tired and wearing a jacket and open-necked shirt, said he “wasn’t feeling so well” when he first arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday and that the next few days would be crucial in his fight against the coronavirus.
“Over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test, so we’ll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days,” Trump said, seated at a round table in front of an American flag.
The address came hours after differing assessments of his health from administration officials left it unclear how ill the president had become since he tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday night, a matter of enormous public concern.
A White House team of doctors said on Saturday morning that Trump’s condition was improving and that he was already talking about returning to the White House. One doctor said Trump had told them “‘I feel like I could walk out of here today.’”
Within minutes, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a less rosy assessment, telling reporters, “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.”
Meadows, whose initial comments were delivered on condition that he not be identified, altered his tone hours later, telling Reuters that Trump was doing “very well” and that “doctors are very pleased with his vital signs.”
Meadows did not clarify the discrepancy in his comments.
Trump was flown from the White House to Walter Reed, near Washington, about 17 hours after he announced his illness. Administration officials, who described the move as precautionary, said he would stay at the hospital for several days.
Another source who was briefed on Trump’s condition said the president was given supplemental oxygen before he went to the hospital. The decision to hospitalize Trump came after he had experienced difficulty breathing and his oxygen level dropped, according to a source familiar with the situation.
White House doctor Sean P. Conley told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday that Trump had not experienced difficulty breathing, and was not given oxygen at Walter Reed.
“The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said. He declined to give a timetable for Trump’s possible release from the hospital.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an emerging infectious disease professor at Johns Hopkins University, said, “If a person is hospitalized we don’t consider it a mild case anymore.” But he said it was difficult to gauge Trump’s medical status based on the information provided publicly so far by his doctors.
“Today’s spectacle – doctors saying one thing, White House sources saying another thing, and both later amending their statements – only reinforces the credibility problems of this administration,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
The diagnosis was the latest setback for the Republican president, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper, Susan Cornwell, Rick Cowan, Idrees Ali, Deena Beasley, Andy Sullivan, Diane Bartz, Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunicutt; Writing by Joseph Ax and Richard Cowan; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis