The Slatest

Trump’s Doctor Admits He Downplayed Severity of President’s Condition to Stay Upbeat

Sean Conley speaks at a lectern. Other doctors wearing masks are seen in the background.
Sean Conley, physician to Donald Trump, gives an update on the president’s health as he is treated for a COVID-19 infection at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Sunday. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s White House physician, Sean Conley, gave another update on the president’s health Sunday and acknowledged that he had tried to downplay the severity of the illness on Saturday in an effort to stay upbeat. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” Conley said. “The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”

Doctors said his blood oxygen level dropped twice since he was diagnosed, and he has been given the steroid dexamethasone, but they remained largely upbeat about his condition and said he could be discharged as early as Monday. “Our hope is that we can plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House,” Brian Garibaldi, another doctor on the president’s team, said.

After dancing around the question yesterday of whether Trump had received supplemental oxygen, Conley today confirmed the president did in fact receive it when had a high fever and his blood oxygen level had dipped below 94 percent on Friday. Trump’s oxygen level also dropped on Saturday, but doctors were unclear on whether he received supplemental oxygen again. The president’s oxygen level currently stands at 98 percent. Another unanswered question is whether lung scans showed any damage or whether the president has pneumonia.

Conley also revealed that the president was administered the steroid dexamethasone on Saturday. The steroid is typically used in patients who are severely ill, as there are suggestions that it could be harmful for patients who don’t need oxygen. The World Health Organization specifically recommends that only patients with “severe and critical COVID-19” receive the steroid. It seems there was some debate within the medical team on whether to administer dexamethasone, but in the end it decided that the “potential benefits” outweighed the risks.

Despite these specific revelations, doctors were mostly optimistic about the president’s condition, saying he has not had a fever since Friday morning. They also said the president’s liver and kidney function remained normal after he received a second dose of remdesivir. The positive attitude from the doctors was largely in line with the assessment Trump offered Saturday night in a video he posted on Twitter saying that he was feeling better and hoped to “be back soon,” though he acknowledged the “real test” would come over the next few days.