Experts concerned after Trump briefly leaves hospital amid COVID-19 treatment
After United States President Donald Trump, who has tested positive for COVID-19, decided to greet supporters in a drive-past on Sunday, experts have raised questions about the possible risk of infection to the staff inside his car. The US President had revealed his coronavirus diagnosis, along with that of his wife First Lady Melania Trump, last week. Here are more details.
Trump left the Walter Reed military medical center near Washington, where he is being treated, in a sealed car to pay a "surprise visit" to "patriots" outside the hospital. Inside the sealed car, Trump had worn a mask. The incident invited backlash as experts say Trump may have endangered Secret Service staff inside the car. Notably, prolonged close contact increases the risk of transmission.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere said the drive-past had been "cleared by the medical team as safe." Deere said that "appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the President and all those supporting it, including PPE [personal protective equipment]."
Experts say Trump's car trip violated public health advice to quarantine during treatment. Dr. James Philips—a doctor at the Walter Reed facility—tweeted, "That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures." Those present inside the President's vehicle have to face 14-day quarantines, Philips said.
On the other hand, Melania Trump has "mild symptoms" and has remained at the White House. Reportedly, Mrs. Trump had decided against visiting her husband at the hospital, citing risks to staff. "She has COVID," an unnamed official told NBC on Saturday. "That would expose the agents who would drive her there and the medical staff who would walk her up to him."
President Trump has been in the hospital since Friday, shortly after he announced his diagnosis. The severity of Trump's illness remains unclear. The White House had earlier said that he had "mild symptoms," however he has received extra oxygen twice as his oxygen levels dipped. He was also given the steroid dexamethasone, which is usually administered in severe cases.
Meanwhile, White House Physician Dr. Sean Conley said on Sunday, "I was trying to reflect an upbeat attitude of the team and the President about the course his illness has had." He had earlier offered an upbeat prognosis, which was later contradicted by Trump's Chief of Staff. "I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction."