Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday evening after three days of hospital treatment for coronavirus, although his doctor warned that the president was not yet “out of the woods”.
Mr Trump walked down the steps of the Walter Reed Medical Center wearing a mask and without assistance shortly before 7pm, giving a thumbs up to the cameras and saying only: “Thank you very much, everybody.”
Upon returning to the White House, he discarded his mask for an extended period to watch the departure of the presidential helicopter, Marine One, which had flown him back from the Maryland military hospital.
He then participated in a video message shot from the balcony of the White House, declaring: “Now I’m better. Maybe I’m immune,” he hypothesised. “I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful . . . The vaccines are coming momentarily.”
Mr Trump’s return to Washington ended a day in which he declared himself “feeling really good” and returned to Twitter to downplay the outbreak’s severity.
Despite his upbeat pronouncements, Mr Trump left Walter Reed as the virus continued to spread within his inner circle and with the White House struggling to respond to questions about his illness, such as when he contracted the disease and the results of X-rays and scans.
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that she had tested positive for the virus, though she insisted she was “experiencing no symptoms”. She added that she would begin to quarantine immediately.
Sean Conley, the president’s personal physician, said just before Mr Trump’s departure from the hospital that the president’s fever had abated and his oxygen levels had returned to normal, having twice dropped to concerning levels since Friday.
Dr Conley said: “Though he may not entirely be out of the woods yet, 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 surrounded by world-class medical care, 24/7.”
Asked if Mr Trump’s mental clarity had been affected by the cocktail of drugs he is on, Dr Conley said: “You’ve seen the videos and other tweets and you’ll see him shortly . . . he’s back.” He declined to discuss whether diagnostic tests had shown any damage to the president’s lungs, which has been the case with many coronavirus patients.
After the second episode of falling blood oxygen levels, which occurred while he was at Walter Reed, Mr Trump’s doctors administered an anti-inflammatory steroid called dexamethasone.
The World Health Organization recommends the drug for patients with “severe” Covid-19, while the US National Institutes of Health recommends it for patients who require artificial ventilation or supplemental oxygen.
The president has also taken an experimental antibody cocktail and remains in the middle of a five-day course of remdesivir, which has not been fully approved by regulators.
Dr Conley said Mr Trump would take his fifth and final dose of remdesivir at the White House on Tuesday evening.
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He added that doctors remained concerned about the possibility that Mr Trump’s condition could deteriorate between days seven and 10 of the virus, as has happened to many other patients.
“We’re in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to a patient that received the therapies he has so early in the course,” he said. “So we’re looking to this weekend. If we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same, or improving better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief.”
Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s Democratic opponent, had refrained from criticising the president during his hospitalisation, but on Monday afternoon he used a campaign speech in Miami to renew his attacks on the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
Mr Biden said: “I was glad to see the president speaking and recording videos over the weekend. Now that he’s busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this: listen to the scientists, support masks, support a mask mandate nationwide.”
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Ms McEnany’s positive test widens the circle of Trump aides who have been diagnosed with the virus. Bill Stepien, the president’s campaign manager, tested positive last week. Kellyanne Conway, a former top White House aide, and Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, both caught the virus last week after helping Mr Trump with his debate preparation.
A justice department spokesperson on Sunday evening said Bill Barr, the attorney-general, had tested negative but was quarantining. Mr Barr was at a White House Rose Garden event in late September that was also attended by several people who were later diagnosed with Covid-19, including two senators and Ms Conway.
Judd Deere, the deputy White House press secretary, said he was also quarantining as a precautionary measure. Mr Deere said he had been with Mr Trump on Thursday, the day the president was diagnosed with the virus. Mr Deere has not tested positive, but US news organisations reported at least two other White House aides had tested positive.
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