Donald Trump was flown to Walter Reed military hospital and given two experimental drugs on Friday after developing a fever following his diagnosis with coronavirus, just one month before the presidential election.
Shortly before midnight and five hours after Mr Trump arrived at the hospital, Sean Conley, the White House physician, said the US president was “resting comfortably” and was “not requiring any supplemental oxygen”.
“I am happy to report that the president is doing very well,” Dr Conley wrote in a memo that came 23 hours after the diagnosis was announced.
Dr Conley said Mr Trump’s medical team decided to give him remdesivir, an antiviral treatment manufactured by Gilead Sciences that has shown signs of reducing the risk of death.
Before Mr Trump was moved to the hospital in Maryland, Dr Conley had said the president was also given an infusion of an experimental antibody cocktail manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company.
Late on Friday the president tweeted: “Going welI, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”
This is not a matter of politics. It is a bracing reminder to all of us that we take this virus seriously
The White House had said that the decision to move Mr Trump to hospital was a “precautionary” measure. But critics have questioned why White House doctors have not held a press conference to provide more details.
Questions have also emerged about the extent to which Mr Trump’s condition deteriorated during the day. In his first memo announcing the diagnosis, Dr Conley had said that the president would convalesce at the White House.
The physician said the decision to move Mr Trump to hospital was taken in conjunction with doctors from Walter Reed and Johns Hopkins University.
“I’m going to Walter Reed,” Mr Trump said in a video posted on Twitter shortly after he arrived at Walter Reed around 6.30pm on Friday. “I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure things work out.”
Mr Trump, wearing a mask and in a suit, walked from the White House to board Marine One, the presidential helicopter, without assistance on Friday evening. He also disembarked unassisted at Walter Reed, the hospital where presidents historically receive medical checks and treatment.
The dramatic developments came just 32 days before the election as Mr Trump was trying to close the gap with Joe Biden, his Democratic rival.
In another bad sign for Mr Trump’s re-election bid, his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, was also diagnosed with the virus on Friday evening.
Mr Trump was tested for coronavirus on Thursday evening after Hope Hicks — a close aide who accompanied the president to the presidential debate in Ohio this week — contracted the virus. He has repeatedly been criticised for largely refusing to wear masks and not encouraging others to do so.
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Mr Trump hosted an event at the White House on September 26 to unveil his choice of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court vacancy. At least four other people who were at the event have since tested positive for coronavirus.
Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, two Republican members of the Senate judiciary committee, on Friday said they were coronavirus-positive. Video of the event on Twitter showed Mr Lee, without a mask, hugging people. Kellyanne Conway, a former top aide who left the White House in August but attended the White House event, on Friday said she had tested positive.
One person familiar with the situation said the White House had not briefed top Senate Republicans before Mr Trump went to hospital. A Democratic lawmaker said top Democrats had also not been briefed.
Members of Congress were left to watch the video of Mr Trump walking to his helicopter for clues about his condition.
Shortly before Mr Trump was flown to Walter Reed, Dr Conley said in a memo that the president was “fatigued”.
John Bolton, the former US national security adviser, said on CNN that while it was “unsettling” to see Mr Trump moved to hospital, such precautionary measures were more likely to be taken in the case of a president.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee who leads Mr Trump in the polls, sent his best wishes to his Republican opponent, and urged Americans to wear masks to protect others during the pandemic.
“This is not a matter of politics. It is a bracing reminder to all of us that we take this virus seriously,” Mr Biden said.
Regeneron said the White House doctor applied for permission to use its drug — which has not been approved by regulators even on an emergency basis — on “compassionate use” grounds. In early-stage clinical trials, it has been shown to cut the level of the virus when administered early.
Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the cocktail was the “latest and greatest” but that while it appeared to be safe, “we don’t know for sure”.
Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said it could not be assumed that Mr Trump’s condition was deteriorating significantly based on his hospitalisation. “You have to assume that the threshold for taking him to hospital is lower than it would be for an average person,” he said.
Additional reporting by Kadhim Shubber in Washington and Mamta Badkar in New York
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