(C) Reuters. U.S. President Donald Trump gives thumbs up to supporters outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
By Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said he would leave the hospital on Monday where he has been treated for COVID-19, returning to a White House hit by a wave of infections and a campaign further shadowed by the pandemic four weeks before Election Day.
Trump was admitted to a military hospital outside Washington on Friday after being diagnosed with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!” he said on Twitter.
Trump, 74, has not had a fever in more than 72 hours and his oxygen levels are normal, his medical team said in a briefing in front of the hospital. The doctors declined, however, to discuss any potential toll the disease could have on the president’s lungs or disclose when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus.
The team added that the president had received supplemental oxygen twice in recent days.
“He may not entirely be out of the woods yet,” Dr. Sean. P. Conley, the White House physician, told reporters. He added, however, that the president would be surrounded by world-class medical care around the clock at the White House.
Conley said doctors were in “unchartered territory” because Trump had received certain therapies so early in the course of the illness.
The severity of Trump’s illness has been the subject of intense speculation in the past three days, with some medical experts noting that, as an overweight, elderly man, he was in a category more likely to develop severe complications or die from the disease.
Doctors also have been treating him with a steroid, dexmethasone, that is normally used only in the most severe cases.
Trump has frequently downplayed the threat of the pandemic, which has infected 7.4 million people in the United States and killed more than 209,000. In recent days, he released a series of videos to reassure the public he is recovering from COVID-19.
He was reluctant to go to the hospital last week and is eager to get out, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters earlier on Monday.
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped Trump’s decision to return to the White House was not politically motivated and she expressed concern that he could become a “long hauler,” a term that refers to those who suffer COVID-19 complications over an extended period.
Trump’s medical team said he had not placed any pressure on the doctors treating him.
Even when discharged, Trump will need to continue treatment as he is still undergoing a five-day course of an intravenous antiviral drug, remdesivir, and will have to isolate himself for a certain period of time.
The coronavirus outbreak around Trump widened on Monday when White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she had tested positive for the virus.
McEnany, who is at the forefront of the White House’s often combative dealings with the media, held a briefing for reporters on Thursday in which she did not wear a face mask.
Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, who work in the White House’s press office, also have tested positive, a source confirmed to Reuters.
TRAILING IN POLLS
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday showed the Republican Trump trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden, 77, nationally by 10 percentage points. About 65% of Americans said Trump would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously.
Trump has repeatedly flouted social-distancing guidelines meant to curb its spread. He also mocked Biden at last Tuesday’s presidential debate for wearing a mask at events, even when he is far from other people.
Biden, who has tested negative for the disease several times since the debate, said on Monday he was willing to participate in next week’s scheduled presidential debate if health experts deemed it safe.
A return to the White House might help Trump project a sense of normalcy in his bid to win re-election on Nov. 3. Before falling ill, he had tried to pivot the campaign toward the U.S. economic recovery and the upcoming confirmation hearings for his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
But the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the White House as well as in Congress – three Republican senators have tested positive for the virus in the past week – threatens to draw further attention to Trump’s pandemic response.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative again for COVID-19 on Monday, an administration official said. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, tested negative on Monday, an administration official said.
Pence is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who both work at the White House, also tested negative for the virus, Ivanka Trump’s spokeswoman said. The president’s wife, Melania, tested positive last week.
Major U.S. stock markets closed sharply higher on Monday ahead of Trump’s departure from the hospital and amid signs of progress with a new fiscal stimulus bill in Congress. Wall Street’s main indexes slumped on Friday after Trump’s COVID-19 announcement.