US President Donald Trump is “very well” as he spends the weekend in a hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, his doctor says.
Dr Sean Conley said the president was not on extra oxygen for now and had been fever-free for 24 hours.
But conflicting reports have emerged suggesting concern over Mr Trump’s health, the time he was diagnosed or whether he was ever given oxygen.
In exactly one month, Mr Trump faces Joe Biden in the presidential election.
The positive diagnosis, made public by the president in a tweet on Friday, has upended his campaign and also cast doubt on his attempt to get a new Supreme Court judge confirmed before polling day.
The president is expected to remain at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center close to Washington DC for several days. Dr Conley said he was “cautiously optimistic” but that he could not give a timetable for his discharge.
But the doctors’ assessment was contradicted by a person familiar with the president’s condition who said some of his vital signs over the last 24 hours were “very concerning” and that the next 48 hours would be critical. The source said “we’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery”.
The president, being 74, a man and someone categorised as obese, is in a higher-risk category for Covid-19. He has so far been treated with an experimental drug cocktail injection and the antiviral medication remdesivir.
Writing on Twitter later, the president said: “Doctors, nurses and all at the great Walter Reed Medical Center, and others from likewise incredible institutions who have joined them, are amazing… With their help, I am feeling well!
What else did the doctors say?
Speaking at a news conference on Saturday morning, Dr Conley refused to say whether the president had ever been on oxygen despite being repeatedly questioned. “None at this moment and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen”.
Shortly afterwards, the Associated Press and New York Times reported, quoting unnamed officials, that doctors had given the president supplemental oxygen at the White House on Friday before deciding to transfer him to Walter Reed.
Dr Conley also said some of the president’s symptoms including a mild cough and nasal congestion were “now resolving and improving”, adding: “At this time the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made”.
There was also some confusion after he said the team were “72 hours” into the president’s positive diagnosis which, if confirmed, would suggest Mr Trump attended two large campaign events possibly knowing he was infected. A White House official later clarified the doctor meant to say “it’s day three, not 72 hours”.
Another doctor, Sean Dooley, said Mr Trump was in “exceptionally good spirits” having said earlier: “I feel like I could walk out of here today”.
First Lady Melania Trump, who has also tested positive for Covid-19, was “doing great”, Dr Conley said.
The list of other people to have tested positive around Mr Trump include close aide Hope Hicks – believed to be the first to show symptoms – campaign manager Bill Stepien and former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway. Republican Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis have also tested positive.
Mr Trump remains in charge. Vice-President Mike Pence, to whom under the constitution the president would transfer power temporarily should he become too ill to carry out his duties, tested negative.
More questions than answers
One would imagine the purpose of the White House medical team’s news conference was to reassure the public that the president is doing well and that the nation’s top medical experts are on top of the situation. Instead, they created more confusion.
Sean Conley said President Trump was diagnosed “72 hours ago” – which would be Wednesday morning. That is before the president travelled to Minnesota for a campaign rally that night, before he flew to New Jersey for a fundraiser on Thursday and more than 36 hours before the president revealed his coronavirus diagnosis to the world in a late-night tweet.
The timeline is further muddied by the revelation that the president was given an antiviral treatment sometime on Thursday – also before his announcement.
Dr Conley tried to paint a positive picture of the president’s current medical condition, although he was evasive about whether Mr Trump had ever been given oxygen to assist his breathing. And then, just minutes after the news conference concluded, a White House official struck a very different tone, telling the gathered press “the president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning”.
The White House, and the president’s medical team, have some explaining to do. They have since said the physicians misspoke, but that is unlikely to put concerns to rest that the president may have knowingly put more people at risk by travelling when he knew he might have Covid-19.
How did the president look on Friday?
Wearing a mask and suit, Mr Trump walked out across the White House lawn on Friday at 18:15 (22:15 GMT) to his helicopter, Marine One, for the short flight to the medical centre.
He waved and gave a thumbs-up to reporters but said nothing before boarding the aircraft.
In an 18-second video posted to Twitter, Mr Trump said: “I think I’m doing very well. But we’re going to make sure that things work out. The first lady is doing very well. So thank you very much.”
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The president’s children, Ivanka and Eric, retweeted his post, praising him as a “warrior”. Ms Trump added: “I love you dad.”
Donald Jr said his father was “obviously taking it very seriously”.
Mr Trump was admitted to the presidential suite at Walter Reed, which is where US presidents usually have their annual check-up. Shortly before midnight, he tweeted again: “Going well, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”