By Josh Wingrove, Jennifer Jacobs and Justin Sink
President Donald Trump’s aides will try to keep him confined to the White House residence after he’s discharged from the hospital with COVID-19 later Monday, but are unsure they can limit his movements, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump announced on Twitter that he will leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Monday evening after being treated for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He urged Americans not to fear the virus after receiving medical care unavailable to most people, including three powerful medicines and an airlift to the hospital.
“Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
The virus has infected more than 7.4 million Americans and has killed more than 210,000 since February, including 475 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Over the past 24 hours, the president has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all hospital discharge criteria,” White House physician Sean Conley said at a briefing after Trump’s announcement.
Trump “may not entirely be out of the woods” but the rest of his care can safely be performed at the White House, Conley said.
The president will receive a fourth dose of an antiviral drug, remdesivir, at Walter Reed before he’s discharged and a fifth dose at the White House, his medical team said.
“He’s returning to a facility, the White House medical unit, that’s staffed 24-7,” Conley said. “Every day a patient stays in the hospital unnecessarily is a risk to themselves.”
Conley said coronavirus patients can stop shedding the virus in as few as five days after diagnosis, and that Trump would be monitored to determine when he is no longer infectious. The White House plans for Trump to stay in the residence for a few days before returning to normal, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
But Conley conceded that the course of Trump’s illness could still take a turn. “We all remain cautiously optimistic and on guard because 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.
“We’re looking to this weekend,” Conley added. “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.”
Trump has received doses of two other powerful medicines, including an experimental “antibody cocktail” and a steroid, dexamethasone, usually used to combat inflammation in people with more severe cases of COVID-19.
One of Trump’s doctors read off a list of the president’s vital signs as of Monday morning, including his temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate and blood-oxygen saturation level. His medical team has not previously released that data to the public.
But Conley declined to discuss the results of scans of Trump’s lungs, citing the federal health privacy law.
Trump has been in the hospital since Friday evening, after announcing early that morning he’d tested positive for the virus. He was briefly administered supplemental oxygen at the White House before traveling to Walter Reed, Conley said Sunday.
The White House hadn’t provided any update on Trump’s health in more than 24 hours, and before announcing he would leave the hospital, Trump himself hadn’t said anything about his condition on Twitter since shortly after 5 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany meanwhile said Monday she tested positive for the novel coronavirus, adding her to a growing list of infected Trump associates that includes first lady Melania Trump, at least two White House aides who travel with the president and three Republican senators.
With less than a month until Election Day, Trump’s hospitalization has jolted the presidential campaign, forcing him to scrap rallies and other events as polls show him trailing Joe Biden nationally and in swing states. His campaign has launched “Operation MAGA,” referring to his Make America Great Again slogan, to flood the campaign trail with top surrogates like Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s family and others.
Trump’s release comes after a weekend of mixed signals from Conley, who on Sunday disclosed for the first time that the president had been given supplemental oxygen and received a medication that is typically used in more severe COVID-19 patients.
Asked why he didn’t disclose during Saturday’s briefing that Trump had received oxygen despite repeated questions about it, Conley said, “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude” of the team and the president.
Trump was hospitalized Friday evening after recording a fever and receiving supplemental oxygen that day. He had been diagnosed late Thursday, after a close aide, Hope Hicks, also tested positive for the virus.
The president first tested positive after he returned from a fundraiser at his New Jersey golf resort on Thursday, McEnany told reporters Sunday evening. Trump made an appearance on Fox News on Thursday night before disclosing on Twitter shortly after midnight Friday that he had tested positive.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday criticized Trump’s attendance Thursday at a fundraiser at his Bedminster golf resort in the state, saying it ought to have been canceled. The president went to the event despite knowing Hicks had tested positive.
“I hope it’s a lesson that now we’ve all learned,” Murphy said on CBS’s “This Morning.”
Biden, speaking in Miami, wished Trump and the first lady well and said he hoped the president would take mask-wearing seriously.
“I was glad to see the president speaking and recording videos over the weekend,” Biden said. “Now that he’s busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists, support masks.”
He noted that the Trump administration has rejected a mask mandate as recently as Friday, the day Trump was hospitalized.
“I backed that mandate months ago, he should back it now,” Biden said.