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Concerns mounted over the true state of Donald Trump’s health on Saturday as the US president’s battle with coronavirus raised doubts over transparency from the White House and engulfed the election in further chaos and controversy.
Briefings outside the hospital where Trump is a patient raised more questions than answers.
Doctors lining up in white coats insisted that Trump, who was admitted to the Walter Reed national military medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Friday evening after being diagnosed with Covid-19, was “doing very well” and “there is no cause for concern”.
But just moments later, confusion reigned and fears for the president grew as it emerged that a separate, unnamed briefing had been given to the pool reporters assigned to cover the president, and it was less upbeat.
“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,” the source said, according to the White House press pool.
It raised concerns that the president’s condition was worse than first thought and that the public is being misled.
Sean Conley, the president’s personal physician, who led the official medical briefing outside the hospital, was evasive under questioning as to whether Trump had ever received oxygen in the aftermath of his coronavirus diagnosis this week.
And Conley was reluctant to provide more details on the president’s symptoms and the timeline of his illness, including the extent of his fever and the effects of the virus on the 74-year-old’s body.
He said Trump had not been on oxygen while he was with his team, but would not answer direct questions about Friday. Later, the Associated Press news agency reported via an unnamed source that the president was given supplemental oxygen while still at the White House, before being admitted to the hospital.
In contrast, when asked about reports that Trump had had difficulty breathing, Conley was unequivocal in saying that “he has not and never did”.
Equally confusing was Conley’s initial assertion that Trump was first diagnosed 72 hours prior, suggesting Trump tested positive on Wednesday, before he travelled to public campaign events in Minnesota and New Jersey. But a little later, the White House sought to clarify by saying Conley meant that it was now day three since the diagnosis, and that Trump was diagnosed on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, with the clock ticking on the 3 November presidential election, Trump’s admission to the hospital threw an already tumultuous re-election campaign into further disarray.
Several senior campaign officials and Republican figures, including campaign manager Bill Stepien, three US senators and former White House counsel Kellyanne Conway were also confirmed to have contracted Covid-19. Although the time, place and source of infections have not been confirmed, they attended an event increasingly regarded as a possible “super-spreader” – the announcement at the White House last Saturday evening of judge Amy Coney Barrett to be Trump’s latest nominee to the supreme court.
More than 100 Republican grandees gathered close together without masks both inside the White House and outdoors in the Rose Garden during the event.
The sudden quarantining of the president and the diagnosis of his campaign manager immediately put his re-election campaign on the back foot while Democratic candidate Joe Biden forged ahead with a speech in Michigan – while wearing a mask – after testing negative for Covid on Friday.
Biden’s campaign said on Saturday that it would suspend “negative” campaign ads that criticize Trump.
Conley, the president’s physician, insisted on Saturday that Trump had made progress, was doing “very well” and had received an experimental antibody drug and started a course of the antiviral drug remdesivir.
“He is not on oxygen right now,” Conley said. “All indicators are he will remain off the oxygen going forward. At this time the team and I are extremely happy at the progress he has made. We remain cautiously optimistic but he’s doing great.”
Conley admitted, however, that the treatment program was in its early stages, and that the worst effect of coronavirus in a patient might not manifest for seven to 10 days.
Conley made no mention of the latest condition of the first lady Melania Trump, who remains at the White House experiencing only minor symptoms, according to her own social media.
Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, and Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and a Trump adviser, have also contracted the disease.
Mike Pence, the vice-president, who will take over the levers of government if Trump dies or becomes incapacitated, announced on Saturday he had tested negative for coronavirus for a second day. He is not in quarantine, although he was in the front row at the Barrett event in the White House Rose Garden last weekend.
“This is a code red moment for the US government,” political analyst Samantha Vinograd, an adviser at the University of Delaware’s Biden Institute, which is not affiliated with the Biden campaign, said in an analysis for CNN.
“There is a global message that the White House would not or could not do what is necessary to protect its own staff, and the president … [and a] strong narrative that the White House will not or cannot do what’s necessary to protect Americans.”
Additional reporting by Tom Lutz and Emily Holden.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Conflicting reports raise concerns about severity of Trump’s Covid condition | US news