Trump Returns to White House, but 'Not Out of Woods Yet'

Damian McNamara

October 05, 2020

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President Donald Trump has returned to the White House after improving sufficiently during his hospitalization for COVID-19 to be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his personal physician stated during a mid-afternoon press conference.

"Though he may not be out of the woods yet, the team and I agree all of our evaluations — and most importantly his clinical status — support the president's safe return home, where he will be surrounded by world-class medical care 24/7," Sean P. Conley, DO, said. "There is nothing being done here that cannot be done safely at home."

Dr Sean Conley, President Trump's personal physician.

"You've seen the videos and tweets. He's back," Conley said.

When asked why the President was permitted to leave the hospital Sunday evening and greet supporters from his SUV wearing only a cloth mask, Conley replied that the president has been surrounded by medical and security staff wearing full PPE for days. The secret service agents that drove him "had the same level of PPE," he added.

Infection Control Plans

Conley also reported that the team is helping to evaluate where the president will carry out his duties following discharge, including his office space. Jason Blaylock, MD, chief of medicine at Walter Reed and an infectious disease specialist at the hospital, addressed planned safety precautions.

Dr Jason Blaylock

"Both myself and Dr Wes Campbell have worked very closely with various laboratories in the area, state-of-the-art facilities…on obtaining advanced diagnostic testing to really inform the White House medical team on both the status of the president as well as his ability to transmit virus to others," he said.

Blaylock is also helping to address infection control strategies "so he can safely return to his residence."

Dr Sean Dooley

Sean Dooley, MD, provided a rundown of the president's latest vital signs, including a temperature of 98.1°F, a respiratory rate of 17 breaths/minute, heart rate of 68 beats/minute, a blood pressure of 134/78 mm Hg and an oxygen saturation of 97% on room air. Trump has no respiratory complaints and is ambulatory and working, Dooley added.

Citing HIPAA privacy provisions, Conley would not release any details on the president's lung scans. He said, "I'm not at liberty to discuss." Likewise, Conley refused to answer questions from reporters about the timing of the President's last negative COVID-19 test.

"I don't want to go backwards," he said.

Multiple Therapies Will Continue

Dr Brian Garibaldi

The President is continuing COVID-19 treatment, Brian Garibaldi, MD, told reporters. Trump took his third dose of remdesivir yesterday without difficulty, Garibaldi said, and will receive a fourth dose prior to discharge this evening. A planned fifth dose will be administered at the White House tomorrow evening.

The president is also receiving dexamethasone on an ongoing basis,  Garibaldi said.  

A reporter asked Conley why the President received treatment with a steroid that doctors typically reserve for people with more severe COVID-19. Conley replied that after the President experienced some temporary drops in blood oxygen levels, "we opted to start early, in case that persisted."

Conley confirmed that the first 10 days following diagnosis tend to be the riskiest for active viral shedding, a conservative estimate that is more realistically 5 to 7 days, he said.

He also described Trump as a unique COVID-19 patient because he received more aggressive therapies early in his disease course. "This is uncharted territory…but we remain cautiously optimistic and on guard."

Damian McNamara is a staff journalist based in Miami. He covers a wide range of medical specialties, including infectious diseases, gastroenterology and neurology. Follow Damian on Twitter:  @MedReporter.


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