Donald Trump accused of putting lives at risk on hospital car trip to wave to fans
Coronavirus-positive Donald Trump has been accused of putting people’s lives at risk during a car trip from hospital to wave to fans.
The US President briefly left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he is being treated, in a motorcade on Sunday.
He was captured on video waving to cheering crowds while wearing a mask, despite virus patients generally required to quarantine for 14 days to avoid infecting others.
Trump tested positive on Thursday – two days after his first presidential debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden – and did not disclose his infection until the early hours of Friday morning.
Shortly before the brief ride, the President posted a video on Twitter saying he would “pay a little surprise to the some of the great patriots we have out on the street”.
It is unclear if the people in the multiple cars which made up the motorcade will now be isolating.
White House spokesman Judd Deere described the drive as a “short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters” and said Trump quickly returned to his hospital suite.
Deere said “appropriate precautions were taken” before the ride to protect the President and those supporting him.
“The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do,” he said.
At least two others were seen inside the vehicle with Trump.
Criticism of the ride was swift, including from an attending physician at Walter Reed.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” wrote Dr James Phillips on Twitter.
“They might get sick. They may die. For political theater,” added the doctor, also assistant professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University’s medical school.
“The irresponsibility is astounding,” he added.
Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, added that he was praying for the health of Trump’s Secret Service security detail.
“They understood the risk inherent in the job, but they shouldn’t have to contemplate that the risk is coming from the protectee,” he said.
The White House Correspondents Association issued a statement saying it was “outrageous” that Trump left the hospital without a press pool present.
“The American public deserves independent coverage of the president so they can be reliably informed about his health.”
There were, however, some messages of support.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, reacted to news of the motorcade by tweeting: “Looks like *@realDonaldTrump is making a swift recovery from COVID. So many prayers answered.”
Trump has said the next few days will be the “real test” of his treatment for Covid-19, after a series of contradictory messages from the White House caused widespread confusion about his condition.
Doctors have said the president’s condition was improving, although they were monitoring the condition of his lungs after he received supplemental oxygen.
They said he could be sent back to the White House as soon as today.
However, Trump’s physician Dr Sean P. Conley said the president’s condition had been worse than he previously admitted.
Conley said Trump’s blood oxygen levels had dropped in prior days and that he had run a high fever on Friday morning.
Asked what tests had revealed about the condition of Trump’s lungs, Conley replied: “There’s some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern.”
Conley’s response suggested the X-rays revealed some signs of pneumonia, said Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
Other doctors not involved in Trump’s treatment said there was evidence his case was severe.
He is being given dexmethasone, a steroid used in severe Covid cases, as well as the intravenous antiviral drug Remdesivir and an experimental antibody treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
“It would be very unlikely for him to be out and about, and on the campaign trail in less than 14 days,” said Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer at New York’s Northwell Health.
Doctors have said both Remdesivir and the antiviral drug make sense early in the course of illness to prevent it from getting worse.
But dexamethasone is generally reserved for people whose condition has deteriorated.
Trump spent much of the year downplaying the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected 7.4 million Americans, killed more than 209,000, and caused an economic downturn that has thrown millions out of work.
He said he had been meeting soldiers and first responders at the hospital, raising further questions about whether he was now directly exposing others to the disease.
Health officials in New Jersey said they were trying to track down more than 200 people who attended a Trump fundraising event at his golf course there on Thursday.
Trump traveled to the event after close adviser Hope Hicks had contracted the virus, and just hours before he announced that he had tested positive.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News that Trump tested positive after that fundraiser, not beforehand.
A return to the White House might help Trump project a sense of normalcy as he faces a difficult re-election battle against Biden.
A poll released on Sunday showed Trump trailing Biden by 10 percentage points.
About 65 percent of Americans said Trump would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously.
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