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Donald Trump coronavirus symptoms worse than reported, doctors confirm

Donald Trump’s doctors have admitted putting a misleadingly positive spin on the US President’s symptoms of coronavirus, saying they wanted to reflect an “upbeat attitude”.It comes as they reveal Mr Trump’s oxygen levels dropped twice in recent days and that he is being treated with a powerful steroid amid signs he may have suffered some…

Donald Trump’s doctors have admitted putting a misleadingly positive spin on the US President’s symptoms of coronavirus, saying they wanted to reflect an “upbeat attitude”.

It comes as they reveal Mr Trump’s oxygen levels dropped twice in recent days and that he is being treated with a powerful steroid amid signs he may have suffered some lung damage.

While Mr Trump’s medical team say he has “continued to improve” and could be discharged to return to the White House as early as Monday, conflicting statements about the severity his illness have raised concerns about the outlook for the 74-year-old and strained the credibility of official messaging.

He was flown to the Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, late on Friday night in what White House officials initially described as a precaution after he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

White House physician Sean Conley on Sunday confirmed, however, that Mr Trump was admitted after a “rapid progression” of his illness with his oxygen levels dropping worryingly low.

He received supplementary oxygen at the White House where he had been running a high fever.

“The president has continued to improve,” Dr Conley told reporters on Sunday. “As with any illness, there are frequent ups and downs over the course.”

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Dr Conley said Mr Trump’s oxygen level dropped below 94 per cent on Friday and again during “another episode” on Saturday, but evasively answered “we don’t have any recordings here on that” when asked if it had dropped below 90 per cent.

A drop below 90 for a COVID-19 patient is concerning. He said Mr Trump’s oxygen level currently stands at 98 per cent – within the normal range of 95 to 100.

Commenting on Twitter, Brigham and Women’s Hospital emergency room doctor Jeremy Faust said the messaging seemed to indicate “moderate to severe” illness.

“Conley said ‘low grade fever’ before. Now says was ‘high fever’. He said no oxygen was given Friday. Today he says he did need oxygen on Friday. His oxygen was below 94 per cent but higher than ‘low 80s’. Triangulating (through) the lies, moderate to severe COVID-19 is the implication,” he wrote.

Dr Conley apologised for conflicting information he and the White House had put out on Saturday.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had,” he said. “Didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”

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Another of Mr Trump’s doctors, Brian Garibaldi, the President had been “up and around” and was feeling well.

“Our plan for today is to have him eat and drink, be up out of bed as much as possible, to be mobile,” Garibaldi said.

“And, if he continues to look and feel as well as he does today, our hope is that we can plan a discharge as earlier as tomorrow to the White House where he can continue his treatment course.”

The doctors revealed Mr Trump was given a dose of the steroid dexamethasone on Saturday, following a single dose of an experimental antibody treatment on Friday designed to help the immune system.

He also on Friday began a five-day course of remdesivir, the drug currently used for moderate to severe cases.

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Dr Conley on Saturday night expressed cautious optimism but warned Mr Trump was “not yet out of the woods”, while White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.”

Anonymous White House officials expressed frustration to the Associated Press about the confusing messaging, saying they were particularly upset by the whiplash between Dr Conley’s rosy assessment on Saturday and Mr Meadows’ more concerned statements.

They directed frustration at Mr Trump himself, telling the AP they believed he had restricted what Dr Conley could say, or that his doctor had tried to appease the President by presenting an optimistic outlook.

‘CRACKING JOKES’

The President has resumed making calls and tweeting from hospital. He posted a video Saturday from the business suite in the hospital, saying he was improving and would be “back soon”.

On Sunday, his deputy campaign manager Jason Miller told ABC he had spoken to Mr Trump for a half-hour Saturday and that the president was “cracking jokes”.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien told CBS any discussion of a potential transfer of power to Vice President Mike Pence – as happened when other presidents underwent surgery or were sedated – was “not something that’s on the table” for now.

Mr Pence has been close to some of those testing positive but says he has regularly tested negative. As Mr Trump has had to freeze or rework his campaign, the Vice President is continuing a busy schedule of appearances.

But controversy has been mounting over the progression of the president’s illness – and whether he might have exposed dozens of others to COVID-19 even after a close aide tested positive.

A timeline provided by Mr Trump’s advisers and doctors suggested he met more than 30 donors on Thursday in Bedminster, New Jersey even after learning that Hope Hicks had COVID-19 – and just hours before he announced his own positive test.

There were more than 200 people at the fundraiser and a contact-tracing operation underway in New Jersey is looking at potentially thousands of people who may have been exposed.

‘LOW POINT’

All this came in a week when one poll – taken in the two days after a bruising presidential debate with Mr Biden but before news emerged of Mr Trump’s illness – showed his approval rating hitting a low point for the year.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC survey gave Biden a significant a 53-39 per cent lead among registered voters.

News of Mr Trump’s hospitalisation has drawn widespread sympathy but also fuelled a sense among some that he was paying a price for months of consistently downplaying the severity of the pandemic.

He mocked Mr Biden’s mask-wearing during their debate Tuesday, even as Trump family members in the audience violated rules requiring masks.

“You can’t just say we need to do something but we’re going to let the virus run free. Now it has even run free in the White House,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CBS.

Dozens of supporters have gathered outside the hospital, many waving pro-Trump placards and banners.

Public health experts have expressed alarm at the “White House cluster,” which has been linked to the September 26 Rose Garden celebration of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Prominent Republicans who have now tested positive include former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel, and Senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson.

Democrats have called for Ms Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearings to be postponed, but Judiciary Committee chair Senator Lindsey Graham said they would go ahead.

Mr Biden, who has recently tested negative, has made Trump’s frequent downplaying of the COVID-19 crisis and mixed messaging on mask-wearing a central campaign theme.

With almost 210,000 coronavirus deaths in the US and Mr Trump now laid low, the president has been unable to change the conversation ahead of the November 3 election.

– with AFP

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.