On monday, donald trump said he would be returning to the white house after three nights at walter reed military hospital, where he has been treated for covid-19. much remains unknown about the severity of the presidents condition and the timeline leading up to his diagnosis.
Sean conley, the white house physician working with mr trumps team of doctors, held two press conferences at the weekend but repeatedly gave evasive answers and ended up sparking as many questions as he answered.
There is some confusion around when the president received his first positive result, or how frequently he was tested in the run-up to his diagnosis.
Mr trump said he and his wife melania had contracted the illness in an announcement made in the the early hours of friday morning following a positive test late on thursday. however, dr conley said on saturday that mr trump was 72 hours into his diagnosis, which would suggest the president had tested positive on wednesday.
Dr conley subsequently issued a statement saying he had incorrectly used the term 72 hours instead of day three.
It is also unclear whether mr trump received a positive test result before appearing on a fox news show on thursday evening, when he did not disclose his illness. the wall street journal has reported that the president received a positive result from a rapid test on thursday evening following a fundraiser in bedminster, new jersey, but before his fox appearance. he received another positive result from a more accurate pcr test later that evening.
Compounding the confusion, the white house has refused to say when mr trump last tested negative for the virus. white house press secretary kayleigh mcenany who announced she had tested positive on monday said on sunday that mr trumps first positive test result was received after the new jersey fundraiser. but she would not confirm specific timings, nor say whether the president was tested on wednesday, or on thursday before he went to new jersey.
How severe is mr trumps illness?
It remains unclear how serious mr trumps illness is following a weekend of mixed and contradictory statements from the white house medical team and trump aides and officials.
Doctors said on sunday that mr trump had been suffering from a high fever on friday, and that his blood oxygen saturation levels were at times below 94 per cent, resulting in the use of supplemental oxygen. his oxygen levels dropped to 93 per cent again on saturday.
When asked if mr trumps x-rays and ct scans showed any signs of lung damage or pneumonia, dr conley replied that the medical team had seen some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern. he did not elaborate further.
On sunday, the white house medical team said that mr trump was being given dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid. the world health organization recommends that the steroid only be given to patients with severe covid-19, while the us national institutes of health recommends that it is given to patients who need oxygen or to be placed on a ventilator.
The use of dexamethasone would therefore suggest mr trumps case of covid-19 is more serious than dr conley has indicated, but it is also possible that his medical team has deviated from clinical guidelines.
What did conley say at the weekend that was incorrect, or not fully transparent?
Dr conley was asked if mr trump had been given oxygen, which would have been a sign that his condition was more serious than the mild symptoms described initially by the white house.
He repeatedly obfuscated with answers such as, he is not on oxygen right now. on sunday, however, he acknowledged that mr trumps oxygen levels had dropped on two occasions over three days, and that he had been given oxygen at the white house on friday morning before transferring to walter reed later that day.
Dr conley also said on saturday that he had misspoken when he said that mr trump had taken an experimental antibody cocktail 48 hours previously, which would also have suggested that the president tested positive earlier than thursday. but in another example of confusion, dr conley had not made the original statement, which was delivered by another doctor. the white house declined to comment.
Pressed on sunday on why he had misled the public on saturday, dr conley suggested he had not wanted to upset mr trump. i didnt want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, he said. [it] came off like we were trying to hide something, which wasnt necessarily true.
Who has contracted the virus in trumps orbit, and are more cases likely to emerge?
Several people in mr trumps orbit have developed coronavirus, including his close aide hope hicks, whose diagnosis was reported before mr trumps.
The diagnoses could be linked to an event in the white house rose garden on saturday september 26 to celebrate the nomination of amy coney barrett to the supreme court.
Attendees who have so far tested positive include former white house aide kellyanne conway, republican senators thom tillis and mike lee, the president of notre dame university john jenkins, and mr trumps campaign manager bill stepien. on monday, ms mcenany announced that she had tested positive.
It is also possible that more infections could emerge, according to scott gottlieb, the former commissioner of the us food and drug administration.
Well likely see more cases emerge unfortunately, early this week, from the people who are currently infected who went on to infect other people, dr gottlieb said at the weekend. this is still very much an evolving situation.
Following the rose garden event on september 26, mr trump travelled to cleveland, ohio, for the presidential debate on tuesday, and to minnesota, where he attended a private fundraiser and a campaign rally on wednesday. on thursday, mr trump went to the trump national golf club in bedminster, new jersey, for another private fundraising event.