WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period on Friday and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care as he battles the coronavirus at a military hospital, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Saturday (Oct 3).
His comments were in sharp contrast to the rosy assessment offered moments earlier by Trump’s doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before being flown by helicopter to the hospital.
Trump woke from his first night in the hospital as a COVID-19 patient and said he was doing well, as key Republican allies announced their own positive tests a month before the US election.
Three senators as well as Trump’s campaign manager and other senior aides are among a growing list from the president’s orbit to have contracted the virus, with at least seven confirmed cases tied to an event in the White House Rose Garden last weekend.
Trump, who is trailing in the polls, knocked off the campaign trail for treatment at the Walter Reed army medical center outside Washington – and possibly for many days after – leaving his campaign plans in disarray ahead of a potentially messy election on Nov 3.
Among the unknowns were the prospects for two remaining presidential debates and whether the president will have to yield power temporarily to Vice President Mike Pence if his condition worsens.
“Going well, I think! Thank you to all. Love!!!” Trump said in his first tweet from the hospital late Friday.
He had walked out of the White House under his own power – and wearing a mask, which is rare for the world’s most prominent pandemic skeptic – to be taken to the hospital.
In an 18-second video recorded inside the White House and released on Twitter, Trump broke his silence, saying he was being hospitalised but “I think I’m doing very well.”
“We’re going to make sure that things work out,” he said, adding that First Lady Melania Trump – who also contracted the virus – was “doing very well.”
But much remains unknown about his exact symptoms – described by the White House as mild – and how he caught the virus.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was receiving the anti-viral drug remdesivir following consultation with specialists and not requiring any supplemental oxygen.
She said medical experts recommended he work from presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days as a precaution.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Trump is experiencing coughing, congestion and fever and that these symptoms worsened over the course of Friday.
The president uncharacteristically stayed off Twitter almost all day Friday.
READ: COVID-19: White House National Security Council tells staff members wear masks in common areas and avoid West Wing
BIDEN OUT ON HIS OWN
Heightening the sense of crisis at the heart of power in America, a third Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, announced on Saturday that he had tested positive.
Former White House top aide Kellyanne Conway and Trump’s campaign manager, 42-year-old Bill Stepien, have also tested positive. So have two other Republican senators – Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah.
The latter two sit on the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, which is slated to hold hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s conservative nominee to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie became the latest to test positive for the coronavirus and will be receiving medical attention.
“I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues who have reached out to ask how I was feeling in the last day or two,” Christie wrote on Twitter.
Public health experts have expressed alarm at the number of cases that appear linked to a celebration of Barrett’s nomination at the Rose Garden on Sep 26.
At least seven people who attended have now tested positive, including Trump, first Lady Melania Trump, Conway, Tillis, Lee and University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins.
These are uncharted waters for the US election with Trump – who is well behind his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in the polls – having to freeze much of his campaign.
Biden now finds himself alone on the campaign trail – and able to argue that his more cautious approach to COVID-19 has been vindicated.
Biden has made Trump’s frequent downplaying of the pandemic and mixed messaging on mask-wearing a central campaign theme, while Trump has tried to shift the narrative to areas where he feels stronger, like the economy.
The former vice president, who stood on a stage with Trump for 90 minutes during their ill-tempered first debate Tuesday, announced that he and his wife Jill tested negative Friday.
Underlining his sudden advantage in the bitter race, Biden, 77, traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday, going ahead with a previously scheduled campaign stop.
PRAYING FOR TRUMP
Biden said he was praying for Trump and his family, and his campaign announced it would take down all negative ads.
However, Biden also reminded voters that he has pushed consistently for a serious approach to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 208,000 Americans, unlike his opponent who has mocked the Democrat for his rigorous use of masks.
“Be patriotic,” Biden told supporters in Michigan through a blue surgical mask. “It’s not about being a tough guy. It’s about doing your part.”
The second Trump-Biden debate, scheduled for Oct 15, is now in some doubt.
News of Trump’s infection came after one of his closest advisors, Hope Hicks, tested positive – sparking fears of a cluster of cases emanating from the heart of the White House.
Trump met with dozens of people through the week and reportedly went to a fundraiser in New Jersey after it was known that Hicks had contracted the virus.
Vice President Mike Pence and other senior figures tested negative. The White House said Coney Barrett was negative too.