Coronavirus | Donald Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly, says White House doctor

U.S. Navy Commander Sean Conley, the White House physician, is flanked by other doctors as he speaks to the media about President Donald Trump’s health at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

President Donald Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, his doctors revealed on October 4 as they continued to evade basic questions about his health during treatment for COVID-19. Still, they said he “continued to improve” and suggested he could be discharged as early as October 5.

Speaking on the steps of the military hospital where Mr. Trump spent a third day, his doctors again sidestepped questions, including the timing of his second dip in oxygen, which they neglected to mention in multiple statements the day before, or whether lung scans showed any damage.

Also read | Trump’s doctor clarifies diagnosis timeline

It was the second straight day of obfuscation from a White House already suffering from a credibility crisis. And it raised serious questions about whether the doctors treating the President can be trusted to share accurate, timely information with the American public.

Pressed about conflicting information he and the White House released on October 3, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged that he had tried to present a rosy description of the President’s condition.

"I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had. Didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction,” Dr. Conley said. “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.”

The briefing outside the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre lasted just 10 minutes.

Before walking away, Dr. Conley said the President had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94% on October 2 and during “another episode” on October 3. He was evasive about the timing (“It was over the course of the day, yeah, yesterday morning,” he said) and when asked whether Mr. Trump’s level had dropped below 90% (“We don’t have any recordings here on that”). But he revealed that Mr. Trump was given a dose of the steroid dexamethasone in response.

Mr. Trump’s blood oxygen level currently stands at 98%, Mr. 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. A drop below 90 is concerning.

The doctors also declined to say what they had found in scans of the President’s lungs.

“There’s some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern,” Dr. Conley said. He declined to outline those “expected findings”. The virus can cause pneumonia and other damage that may be visible in scans before a patient is feeling very sick.

Mr. Trump offered his own assessment of his status the night before in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon”. And he was back on social media early morning on October 4, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters, most not wearing masks, gathered outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the President’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. Moreover, the President’s health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the U.S. government but also to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Mr. Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, pulled his attack ads off the air during Mr. Trump’s hospitalisation, and on October 4, he dispatched senior aides to deliver a largely friendly message.

“We are sincerely hoping that the president makes a very quick recovery, and we can see him back out on the campaign trail very soon,” Biden adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union”.

She added: “This is a glaring reminder that the virus is real.”

On October 3, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update on October 4 night, Mr. Trump’s chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods”.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 12:40:38 PM |

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