WASHINGTON — President Trump, who is hospitalized with COVID-19, received supplemental oxygen on Saturday — an episode previously undisclosed by the team treating him—and is now being treated with a powerful steroid amid indications that his lungs may have suffered some damage, the White House physician said Sunday.
At a briefing at Walter Reed medical center, doctors treating Trump continued to be upbeat about his condition, with one of his physicians saying that the president could be discharged as soon as tomorrow. But White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, also acknowledged that he had omitted some information from his briefing on Saturday, saying he was “trying to reflect the upbeat attitude” of Trump and his aides.
“It came off that we were trying to hide something,” he admitted, saying that had not been their intent.
Conley provided several significant new pieces of information Sunday about the 74-year-old president, saying that he had experienced a “high fever” and received supplemental oxygen on Friday, before being transported to the military hospital in suburban Bethesda, Maryland. He revealed that Trump’s oxygen level had fallen again on Saturday to the point that oxygen was required and that scans of his lungs showed some indications of damage, although he insisted they were not of “major clinical concern.”
Significantly, Conley said the president had been given dexamethasone, a steroid, which some experts had said previously would be a significant development.
Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said in an interview Saturday that he would watch for use of dexamethasone, saying it would be a “very clear signal that he has a more severe disease.”
In mild cases, he said, “we actually think it does more harm than good.”
On Sunday, Jha repeated that assessment, noting that it was unclear whether Trump could suffer long-term damage to his lungs. Some patients have breathing trouble even after their initial recovery, he noted.
The medical team said Trump was doing well on Sunday.
“Since we last spoke, the president has continued to improve,” Conley said, adding that the course of any illness has “ups and downs.”
Another of the medical team, Dr. Brian Garibaldi of Johns Hopkins, said Trump was “up and around” and feeling well.
“Our hope is that we could plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow,” he said. At the same time, however, the doctors said that Trump was only mid-way through a five-day course of Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that medical experts have said would be unlikely to be provided outside of hospital setting.
Jha said Sunday he was puzzled by the comment that Trump could be discharged quickly.
“This whole thing strikes me as very unusual. You would not have a normal person getting discharged at this moment,” he said. “Obviously they can do a lot for him out of the White House. But I find this strange, and not consistent with how this is typically managed.”
Although doctors have only released incomplete information, Jha said it appears Trump has a moderate case of COVID-19.
“I don’t think he’s out of the woods yet. He could get worse,” Jha said. “And I think he needs very close monitoring.”