Donald Trump has been flown to a military hospital after contracting Covid-19, a move set to fuel concerns that his condition is more serious than previously thought.
The White House said Friday that the president will spend “a few days” at the Walter Reed national military medical center.
At 6.20pm on a day of turbulence even by the standards of the Trump White House, the US president departed by helicopter for the hospital. Wearing a face mask and suit and walking normally, Trump gave reporters a thumbs-up and a short wave but did not stop to talk. He saluted a marine officer and patted a rail with his right hand on the walkway up to Marine One.
He was followed by his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other staff – sharing the confined space of the helicopter despite Trump’s infection.
Ten minutes later, the president disembarked at the grounds of Walter Reed, saluted and climbed into a vehicle.
Even as Trump was travelling, a video was posted to his Twitter account in which the president made his first public remarks since testing positive.
Standing before a fireplace in a suit, white shirt and blue tie, the president addressed the camera directly, saying: “I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I’m going to Walter Reed hospital. I think I’m doing very well but we’re going to make sure that things work out.
“The first lady is doing very well. So thank you very much, I appreciate it, I will never forget, thank you.”
It was the most dramatic hospitalisation of a US president since Ronald Reagan survived a would-be assassin’s bullet outside a Washington hotel in 1981.
Officials insisted it was a precautionary step and that Trump would work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to continue his official duties.
Alyssa Farah, the administration’s communications director, sought to calm fears over Trump’s condition, tweeted that he “is in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day”.
But she added: “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, he will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.”
Sean Conley, his physician, said in a letter that Trump has been given the experimental antibody drug Regeneron, and he has been taking zinc, vitamin D, an antacid, melatonin and a daily aspirin.
Later Conley said the president “did not require any supplemental oxygen” and had begun taking Remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has shown promise in treating coronavirus.
Conley said Trump is “fatigued but remains in good spirits”, and is being “evaluated by a team of experts”. Media reports suggested that Trump has a low-grade fever.
Conley added that the first lady, Melania Trump, who also tested positive, “remains well” with “only a mild cough and headache”. The rest of the Trump family has tested negative.
But critics demanded greater transparency and suggested that the administration’s record offers cause for scepticism. In 2018, doctor Ronny Jackson claimed that Trump has “great genes” and, with a healthier diet, “might live to be 200 years old”.
Last November, Trump paid an unannounced visit to Walter Reed. His press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told reporters that the president was “taking advantage of a free weekend” to “begin portions of his routine annual physical exam”. But he did not return for the second part and no report was released.
And on Thursday this week, the White House did not disclose that senior aide Hope Hicks had tested positive until its hand was forced by a journalist.
Meanwhile, a scramble is now underway to discover how far the virus may have spread among those in Trump’s orbit.
Attention is focusing on a ceremony held at the Rose Garden on Saturday, at which Trump announced his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the vacant supreme court seat. Two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, announced Friday they had tested positive for the virus, as did the president of Notre Dame University, John Jenkins. Kellyanne Conway, a former counsellor to the president, also announced she had tested positive – the seventh person who attended the event to do so.
As a 74-year-old male who is overweight, Trump is regarded as belonging to a high-risk category. There was no indication that he has considered transferring power to Mike Pence, the vice-president, who has tested negative.
But Trump has been forced to suspend rallies and other events in his campaign for re-election, just a month away. His effort to shift attention from the virus to the economy or a supreme court vacancy has suffered a massive body blow.
His opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, who has tested negative, campaigned in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Friday and sent well wishes for Trump and Melania. “Jill and I pray that they will make a quick and full recovery,” he said.
“This is not a matter of politics. It is a bracing reminder for all of us that we must take this virus seriously. It is not going away.”
Former president Barack Obama tweeted his hopes that the Trumps make “a speedy recovery”, adding: “Obviously, we’re in the midst of a big political battle right now, and while there’s a lot at stake, let’s remember that we’re all Americans. We’re all human beings. And we want everyone to be healthy, no matter our party.”
Trump has spent much of the year downplaying the virus, which has infected more than 7m Americans and killed in excess of 200,000.
He long refused to wear a face mask and told a rally even at this week’s debate, mocked Biden for doing so. On Thursday he attended a campaign fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club after he learned that his senior aide Hope Hicks had tested positive.
Lois Beckett contributed reporting
Read the original article at The Guardian