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What we know, and what we don’t, about Trump’s diagnosis

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 5, 2020

Associated Press

The White House is striking a sunny note about President Donald Trump’s condition, with doctors volunteering that the president could be discharged as early as Monday from the hospital where he is being treated for COVID-19.

A burst of early-morning tweets on Monday and a motorcade ride to cheering supporters outside the hospital the evening before all seemed designed to project strength and normalcy from a president who has now spent three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Even so, a pair of news conferences from a White House physician caused confusion over the weekend about the president’s condition, both because of what the doctor said — and what he didn’t say.

What we know and what we don’t know:

WHAT WE KNOW: TRUMP’S MEDICAL CONDITION

Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, said Trump was given dexamethasone, a steroid, after his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he “has continued to improve” since then. Trump is to be evaluated again on Monday and is optimistic he can be discharged after that, said his chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

The president had a blood oxygen level below 94% on Friday and during “another episode” Saturday. The level currently stands at 98%, Trump’s medical team said.

Blood oxygen saturation is a key health marker for COVID-19 patients. A normal reading is between 95 and 100.

The president, who is also said to have had a “high fever” on Friday, received oxygen at the White House that day.

Along with a steroid, Trump has been treated with two experimental drugs, doctors said.

On Friday, Trump was given a single dose of a drug that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing to supply antibodies to help his immune system fight the virus. Trump also has taken two doses of a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients.

Trump’s team said Sunday that Trump received oxygen at the White House on Friday. They were not clear on whether he received any Saturday.

The additional details emerged after Meadows on Saturday said some of Trump’s vital signs were “very concerning” Friday. That disclosure contradicted a rosy assessment Trump’s doctors had initially provided.

Along with a steroid, Trump has been treated with two experimental drugs, doctors said.

On Friday, Trump was given a single dose of a drug that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing to supply antibodies to help his immune system fight the virus. Trump also has taken two doses of a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: TRUMP’S MEDICAL CONDITION

We don’t know a lot. Trump’s medical team continued to dodge many questions on Sunday, and even in the questions they did answer, they omitted potentially key information.

Conley, for instance, was eager to make clear that Trump’s heart, kidney and liver functions were all normal. But asked repeatedly about what lung scan tests found and whether there have been any signs of pneumonia or other damage, Conley responded: “We’re tracking all of that. There’s some expected findings but nothing of any major clinical concern.”

What those “expected findings” were or exactly how worrisome they might be, he didn’t say.

Conley was similarly evasive when asked whether Trump’s blood oxygen level had dropped below 90%, saying, “We don’t have any recordings here on that.” The question is important since a drop below 90% would be considered concerning.

And though Trump’s team said Sunday that Trump received oxygen at the White House on Friday, it was left unclear whether he received any Saturday.

Conley also hasn’t specified where Trump is in the “disease course” of COVID-19. Days seven to 10 typically are a time of higher concern, he said.

WHAT WE KNOW: WHEN TRUMP FELL ILL

Trump started showing common signs of COVID-19 — a mild cough, stuffy nose and fatigue — by Thursday and tested positive that evening, the White House said. That’s a full day before the White House announced what were initially called “mild symptoms.”

The timeline matters as an indication of how transparent Trump, his staffers and doctors are being about the president’s health and whether Trump should have known he may have been spreading the virus as he mingled with campaign donors, staffers and others Thursday.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: WHEN TRUMP FELL ILL

Conley declined to say when Trump had last been tested before Thursday’s test confirmed COVID-19.

WHAT WE KNOW: HOW TRUMP WAS INFECTED

It’s not clear, but attention is focusing on a White House event Sept. 26, a Saturday afternoon, introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands — overwhelmingly without masks.

Photos also show several indoor receptions, where Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others gathered in the close quarters in the White House.

Among those who attended who have now tested positive: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame and at least two Republican lawmakers — Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who was also at the event, announced that she had tested positive as well.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW: HOW TRUMP WAS INFECTED

Still, there’s no way to know for sure if the Rose Garden event was where Trump — who typically shuns a mask and has kept holding big public gatherings during the pandemic — was exposed. The president had a full week of official and campaign events before his hospitalization Friday.

A third Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, announced his positive test Saturday, and he had not attended Barrett’s nomination kickoff.

Others who were present, including in the front row, have said they tested negative. That includes Attorney General William Barr and Vice President Mike Pence, who as an essential worker is not required to self-isolate. He’ll take a lead in campaigning around the country in the final stretch before the election, and faces Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday in the vice presidential debate.

The administration says an in-house White House medical team is tracing contacts, rather than the Centers for Disease Control.

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