Trump, still infectious, back at White House -- without mask

President Donald Trump, left, walks out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to return to the White House after receiving treatments for COVID-19 Monday in Bethesda, Maryland.

BETHESDA, Md.

President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he has been receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — and then he entered the White House without a protective mask.

Trump’s message alarmed infectious disease experts and suggested the president’s own illness had not caused him to rethink his often-cavalier attitude toward the disease, which has also infected the first lady and several White House aides, including new cases revealed on Monday.

Landing at the White House on Marine One, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.

The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his doctor, Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, said earlier Monday that the president remains contagious and would not be fully “out of the woods” for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital. Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the U.S. government is still being uncovered.

Still Trump indicated he won’t be kept from campaigning for long, tweeting before leaving the hospital, “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!”

Trump made a point of sounding confident earlier. He tweeted, “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. ... I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

Trump’s nonchalant message about not fearing the virus comes as his own administration has encouraged Americans to be very careful and take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease as cases continue to spike across the country. For more than eight months, Trump’s efforts to play down the threat of the virus in hopes of propping up the economy ahead of the election have drawn bipartisan criticism.

“We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population,” Dr. David Nace of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said of Trump’s no-fear comment.

“Most of the people aren’t so lucky as the president,” with an in-house medical unit and access to experimental treatments, added Nace, an expert on infections in older adults.

“It’s an unconscionable message,” agreed Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread.”

There was political pushback to Trump’s attitude toward the virus, as well.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told the Houston Chronicle editorial board that Trump had “let his guard down” in his effort to show that the country was moving beyond the virus and had created “confusion” about how to stay safe.

Conley said that because of Trump’s unusual level of treatment so early after discovery of his illness he was in “uncharted territory.” But the doctor also was upbeat at an afternoon briefing and said the president could resume his normal schedule once “there is no evidence of live virus still present.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.

Trump’s discharge Monday raised new questions about how the administration was going to protect other officials from a disease that remains rampant in the president’s body. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she had tested positive for the virus Monday morning and was entering quarantine.

Both Nace and Khan expressed fear Trump won’t properly stay isolated at the White House — and that he hasn’t learned his lesson about wearing a mask.

“We know he hates the mask, we know he hates to be restricted, we know he’s unpredictable,” Nace said. “The rest of the American people are held accountable to a 10-day isolation period.”

There were also lingering questions about potential long-term effects to the president — and even when he first came down with the virus

Conley repeatedly declined to share results of medical scans of Trump’s lungs, saying he was not at liberty to discuss the information because Trump did not waive doctor-patient confidentiality on the subject. COVID-19 has been known to cause significant damage to the lungs of some patients. Conley also declined to share the date of Trump’s most recent negative test for the virus — a critical point for contact tracing and understanding where Trump was in the course of the disease.

Only a day earlier, Trump suggested he had finally grasped the true nature of the virus, saying in a video, “I get it.” But then on Sunday afternoon, Trump briefly ventured out of the hospital while contagious to salute cheering supporters by motorcade — an outing that disregarded precautions meant to contain the virus.

White House officials said Trump was anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where doctors revealed that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick.

Trump’s experience with the disease has been dramatically different from most Americans, who do not have access to the same kind of monitoring and care. While most must cope with their symptoms — and fear of whether they’ll take a turn for the worse — at home and alone, Trump has been staying in the presidential suite of one of the nation’s best hospitals and has been given experimental drugs not readily available to the public. He returns to the White House where there is a team of doctors on call with 24-hour monitoring.

Trump was leaving the hospital after receiving a fourth dose of the antiviral drug remdesivir Monday evening, Conley said. He will receive the fifth and final dose Tuesday at the White House.

Less than one month before Election Day, Trump was eager to project strength despite his illness and to press his campaign effort across the country.

Vice President Mike Pence returned to the campaign trail moments after Trump announced he would soon leave the hospital. The vice president boarded Air Force Two to fly to Salt Lake City, where he is to face off against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, said the Democratic presidential nominee again tested negative for coronavirus Sunday. The results came five days after Biden spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Trump.

McEnany, who announced Monday that she had contracted the virus, spoke briefly with reporters on Sunday evening without wearing a mask, but said that no members of the White House press corps spent enough time around her to be considered close contacts.

Even before Trump’s motorcade outing on Sunday, some Secret Service agents had expressed concern about the lackadaisical attitude toward masks and social distancing inside the White House, but there isn’t much they can do, according to agents and officials who spoke to The Associated Press. This close to the election, thousands of agents are engaged on protective duty so they can be subbed out quickly should someone test positive.

Trump’s aggressive course of treatment included the steroid dexamethasone and the single dose he was given Friday of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus. Trump on Friday also began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus, and remdesivir curbs the virus’ ability to multiply.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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(27) comments

George Caros

Rex Tillerson said it best

Paul Sivon

Forest Gump’s “stupid is as stupid does” also comes to mind but I agree Tillerson probably did the best summary.

Bailey Jones

Time to hit the campaign trail! When is the Galveston Rally?

Carlos Ponce

Bailey, get your Trump flag ready!

Bailey Jones

I'm having giant stupid wheels put on my truck right now!

Jim Forsythe

Bailey, you will need something to throw to the people.

I would suggest a Trump Verse Kim Mania Doll only $14.99. In case you want to order some, https://www.whitehousegifts.com/collections/inauguration-2017/products/trump-verse-kim-mania-doll.

Bailey Jones

Excellent!

Lisa Gray

I can’t laugh enough at this headline. I hope the media will eventually realize how many people they have completely turned off.

Carlos Ponce

Until they're given their walking papers they'll never realize how asinine their reporting is. They're stuck in the Liberal ant-Trump bubble.They're so stupid they think everyone thinks like they do.

Carlos Ponce

"Trump briefly ventured out of the hospital while contagious to salute cheering supporters by motorcade — an outing that disregarded precautions meant to contain the virus." So Aamer Madhani is telling us face masks do not work and the Chinese virus can penetrate the bulletproof glass partisan in Trump's ride. This article belongs on the editorial page since it is full of ...... Aamer's personal opinions. Another AP hit job.

Doug Sivyer

Your will defend this imbeciles reckless and irresponsible actions even if he killed his own mother in plain view. You are as hopeless as he is. Thank God we will, be rid of him soon.

Carlos Ponce

Nothing "reckless and irresponsible", Doug. But keep up the rhetoric. Just don't do anything drastic when Trump's re-election is announced.

Jim Forsythe

James Phillips, doctor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, who is also an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted his dismay at the president leaving his hospital room to greet supporters from his motorcade.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” he said. “They might get sick. They may die.” Phillips said, “For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Phillips added, “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.

Jonathan Reiner, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at The George Washington University Hospital and a professor of Medicine at The George Washington University Medical Center, also expressed concern at the president leaving the hospital in light of his condition.

“In the hospital when we go into close contact with a Covid patient we dress in full PPE: Gown, gloves, N95, eye protection, hat. This is the height of irresponsibility,” he said.

Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician and CNN medical analyst, tweeted that if Trump were her patient, "in unstable condition + contagious illness, & he suddenly left the hospital to go for a car ride that endangers himself & others: I'd call security to restrain him then perform a psychiatric evaluation to examine his decision-making capacity."

Carlos Ponce

Dr James Phillip thinks the virus can go through bulletproof glass! And there is a bulletproof partition between the driver's compartment where the Secret Service men were and the passenger compartment. And they're the same men you rode with him on Marine One and the drive to the hospital. They volunteered for the job.

So Dr. Phillips is telling us the masks ALL were wearing don't work and the Chinese virus can go through bulletproof glass.

Question: Does Jim Forsythe think the same??????

Raymond Lewis

It's not that the virus cannot 'go through' impervious glass. The point here is that it cannot get out with no circulated outside air and all inside are obviously more vulnerable. Hoping they all are safe.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, go ahead and make excuses for Trump. If Trump cares for anyone but himself, he would stay away from as many people as possible, instead of what he is doing. He is telling people by his action, do not follow the guidelines. His Trump parade expose many people, the ones at the door of the SUV, passengers, people inside the Hospital that were helping him.

He is not be out in public, by the guidelines his COVID-19 task force set. He still is contagious! Trump is to be in isolation.

Trump’s doctors said he would continue his recovery from the White House, where he will be cared for 24/7 by a team of doctors and nurses. His doctor says he's still contagious.

The SUV Trump rode in is smaller inside than the much longer presidential limousine, which places him in closer quarters to other occupants, like that vehicle it is hermetically sealed with an auxiliary air supply. While that would come in handy to ward off the effects of any possible chemical attacks that might occur while in route, it also makes the SUV one of worst environments to be in if one of the occupants, in this case the president himself, is infected with the Coronavirus.

A contagious Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday and immediately took off his face mask for a photo op, despite being in close proximity to his staff.

We have had over 210,000 people die from COVID-19, and Trumps actions could add to the total.

Dan Freeman

Mr. Ponce cannot or will not read “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."

Carlos Ponce

Raymond posts, "and all inside are obviously more vulnerable". The car was made to go through poisonous gases so each compartment has its own internal circulation system. No air goes in, no air goes out. The internal air is scrubbed with carbon filters.

Carlos Ponce

Dan posts, "The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures." Trump was the only person in the passenger compartment, Dan, He was hermetically sealed from the front. The Secret Service driver and agent were not, COULD not breathe the same air circulated around the passenger compartment.

Carlos Ponce

No excuses presented, Jim! Just facts plus common sense!

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, have you seen the specs. on the SUV? Unless they have changed in the last year, air circulates thru the same system, no matter what part of the SUV a person is in.

All the protection under the he hood and other parts of the SUV leave little room for extras. No where can I find that the SUV has a glass between the driver and the President.

Of course you are going to make excuses for Trump, no matter what.

The Beast which is more reinforced then the SUV he was in, is below. It is made to keep bad things out, which keeps the air in the SUV inside.

The inside of the car has its oxygen tank in case of a chemical attack, while the windows are five fused layers of armored glass and polycarbonate. Only the driver’s window can be rolled down, and that too only three-inches down.

It does not, as far as I can see, have two air systems.

Carlos Ponce

Yes, I have. This is a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban Roadrunner SUV used by the Secret Service. It is bulletproof and hermetically sealed against chemical attack. This one has the front cab sealed separate from the passenger compartment, each with it's own air system.

Jim Forsythe

In a video posted to Twitter soon after that news, Trump professed that he had learned a lot about COVID-19 since contracting it himself. "I get it, and I understand it," he said.

Moments later, the president, who has a highly contagious infectious disease, required Secret Service agents to drive him past cheering supporters outside the hospital — a hospital the president's own wife wouldn't visit, for fear she "would expose the agents who would drive her there."

¨Reminder: A White House official, on Saturday, told me the First Lady would not be visiting Trump at Walter Reed because she has COVID and that would expose the agents who would drive her there.

Charlotte O'rourke

One thing we can agree on is that masks are not 100%. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear a mask or minimize contacts - especially if you are positive like the President.

Yesterday, the CDC updated its guidelines and cautioned that they believe the virus is airborne in small indoor spaces without good ventilation. This is a new virus and more information is bound to come in.

Taking off the mask was a visual nightmare for anyone understanding what that means. Airborne precautions require special ventilation rooms, special masks, and considerations of all precautions.

I’m sure the white house has only the best ventilation systems (one hopes) but other businesses based on the CDC update need to reassess their air conditioning/ventilation systems and remember its safest to zoom and work from home if possible.

Charlotte O'rourke

Contact tracing - if they do it and release the information -could help reveal if the virus was picked up inside or outside the White House. Let’s determine how good that ventilation system is?

Ted Gillis

Two White House housekeepers have now tested positive. The building is now a Petri dish.

Jim Forsythe

Kellyanne's daughter has it from contact from Kellyanne, bringing it home.

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