Doctors who gave a routine update on President Donald Trump's health on Saturday said Trump may have tested positive for Covid-19 earlier than reported in the White House.
This new information calls into question the entire White House schedule, and begs the question of whether Trump knew he was positive when he traveled to Minnesota for a campaign event and private fundraiser.
"We are now 72 hours into this diagnosis for President Trump," said Dr. Sean Conley, the White House doctor, just before noon on Saturday – and just 36 hours after Trump first tweeted that he had been confirmed positive for the virus.
When asked about this new schedule at the conference, Conley said that White House medical staff performed "repeat tests" Thursday afternoon after "close contact" obtained a positive result. And the White House said later on Saturday that Conley misspelled it and sent a memo clarifying that he wanted to say "day three" of the president's illness.
The statement was also made by Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a pulmonologist, who told reporters it has been 48 hours since Trump received experimental antibody treatment. An earlier statement from Conley appeared to suggest that Trump had received treatment on Friday.
What treatment the president has received so far – and when – has also been questioned. On Saturday, Conley definitely refused to answer questions about whether Trump was ever given supplemental oxygen, repeating instead that he is out of oxygen "now" or "today".
Towards the end of the press conference, when a reporter asked if Trump had received oxygen at any time on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, Conley's response was evasive: "Thursday, no oxygen; none at this moment; and yesterday, with the team, when we were all here, he had no oxygen. "
Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker of the New York Times reported that Trump was actually given oxygen prior to his trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday. This report was confirmed by the Associated Press and others on Saturday afternoon.
Another source was an anonymous source who told reporters after Saturday's press conference that the president's condition had been "very worrying" over the past 24 hours and that Trump was not doing as well as Conley said.
On Saturday, Conley said the president's medical team was "extremely pleased" with Trump's progress and found he no longer had a fever.
Dr. Sean Dooley, an intensive care medicine specialist, said that Trump's heart, liver and kidney functions are good, that he is currently out of oxygen, and that he has no difficulty breathing or walking around.
"He's in an exceptionally good mood," added Dooley.
Trump repeated this optimism himself on Twitter on Saturday afternoon and wrote: "I feel good!"
As Vox's Zack Beauchamp wrote, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to official statements about the president's health, as the government has a habit of lying about things big and small.
What is certain is that Trump is with Walter Reed and being looked after by doctors. He is divided into three risk categories for side effects of Covid 19 infection: male, over 70 years old and obese.
Conley admitted Saturday that it is difficult to tell where Trump is in his treatment course, but said the team will look to the 7-10-day mark of the virus course if a second phase of symptoms is frequent turns out to be difficult.
In the meantime, he said, Trump receives regular lung scans and tests his blood oxygen saturation. He declined to answer questions about when or by whom Trump allegedly contracted the virus, saying it was irrelevant to his treatment.
What we know when Trump tested positive for the coronavirus
However, knowing when Trump got infected is relevant to a number of other important factors, including whether he knowingly interacted with followers after a positive test result and whether he tried to understand whether public officials were aware of the truth about the health the President said.
During the press conference, Conley said Trump was tested for the virus Thursday afternoon and received a positive test result later that night.
Others close to Trump have also tested positive in the past few days, including former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, as well as others who attended an event at the White House last week to have.
Trump's wife, first lady Melania Trump, has also tested positive. At the press conference on Saturday, Conley said she was "fine" and is recovering at home.
However, if Trump was diagnosed 72 hours before Conley's testimony, it would mean he was first confirmed positive for the virus on Wednesday noon. He spent the day at a private fundraiser in Shorewood, Minnesota, and the evening at an outdoor rally in nearby Duluth.
He flew to and from the Twin Cities in Air Force One with several Republican lawmakers on board.
And a positive test result on Wednesday would mean Trump allowed these lawmakers and supporters to be around him – some of them in sealed rooms – knowing he could be contagious.
The possibility of the virus reaching the Oval Office was publicly raised when Hope Hicks, one of Trump's oldest advisors, was confirmed to have Covid-19 on Thursday. She had traveled aboard Air Force One with Trump all week, including to and from the Minnesota rally where she was showing symptoms.
Shortly after reporters at Bloomberg broke the news, Trump said in an interview with Fox News that he "just" heard about Hick's positive test.
On Thursday evening, Trump tweeted that he would begin the "quarantine process". Two hours later, he tweeted his own positive diagnosis.
Trump was taken to see Walter Reed shortly after 6 p.m. on Friday.
Overall, the agile schedules Trump's medical team has put in place make it difficult to say how serious Trump's condition might be – or who else might have been exposed. Coupled with Conley's evasions on treatment, including the use of supplemental oxygen and steroids, it is difficult to assess the president's health a month before election day.
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