Donald Trump has COVID-19. He is currently being treated at Walter Reed National MIlitary Medical Center. How exactly is he doing, and how long has he been ill? That is all more up in the air than I think most Americans would prefer! Here’s everything we know—and everything we don’t—regarding the timeline of when he was diagnosed and received care.
Trump is supposed to be tested before debating Joe Biden. But according to comments made later by moderator Chris Wallace, he arrives too late to get the test from the Cleveland Clinic, which is hosting the debate. “There was an honor system when it came to the people that came into the hall from the two campaigns,” recounted Wallace in an interview with another Fox anchor. A negative test result isn’t a guarantee that someone doesn’t have and can’t spread the virus. But we don’t even know when his last negative test was. And the more time there was between Trump’s last negative test and the debate, the more likely he was to be contagious while onstage with Biden (who tested negative twice on Friday but still could have gotten infected).
A reporter later asked White House physician Sean Conley for the exact date of Trump’s last negative test. Conley would only say that he is tested “routinely.” But if he was … following the honor system … he presumably tested negative at some point on Tuesday.
Trump is diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a statement from his doctor made Saturday, which he quickly corrected.
Yes, this is confusing: At a press conference Saturday, Sean Conley says that Trump is 72 hours into a diagnosis—which, counting back from Saturday, would mean the diagnosis happened on Wednesday. The White House soon said Conley flubbed his words and that he meant to say that he was on the third day of diagnosis. Conley confirmed the flub in a memo. It’s certainly possible that he made a mistake here. Though as far as mistakes go, an error converting calendar days into hours seems like a weird one for a former U.S. Navy emergency physician to make.
Getting a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and then attending events is extremely serious. We need more evidence than a White House doctor blurting out a wrong timeline to confirm that Trump was actually diagnosed Wednesday.
Trump learns that Hicks tested positive Thursday morning, according to a later report from Bloomberg News.
The information that she tested positive comes to the American people not from the White House but from Bloomberg News, which breaks the news Thursday evening. In a phone interview later that night with Sean Hannity, Trump says he just learned of Hicks’ status, that he will be tested, and that he is in quarantine.
According to Saturday press conference comments from Brian Garibaldi, a pulmonary critical care physician at Walter Reed, this is also when Trump receives a dose of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail.* We have the same question mark here that we do with the diagnosis timeline: On Saturday, Garibaldi said that Trump received the treatment 48 hours ago, though the White House, and Conley corrected this, claiming that his “48 hours” was just marking that it was the second day of the president having COVID. A weird mistake for a second doctor to make!
Also on Thursday, Trump had “a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue” as well as a fever, according to comments on Saturday from Conley.
Trump announces that he has tested positive for COVID-19 at 12:54 a.m. EDT*:
He has a low-grade fever, and continues to have a cough and fatigue, according to the New York Times.
At 4:11 p.m., the White House sends out a memo from Trump’s physician saying that he “remains fatigued but in good spirits” and noting that, as a “precautionary measure” he received Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail.* (He doesn’t specify the time.)
At 5:18 p.m., press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announces that Trump “has mild symptoms” and “will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.” In other words, the president is heading to the hospital. The choice to send him then was made in part “from a public relations perspective,” as they wanted to send him “when he was still able to walk to Marine One on his own,” the Washington Post reports, based on information from a White House adviser. Melania Trump does not go to the hospital. “She has no indication for hospitalization, advanced therapy,” Conley later says.
At the hospital, Trump gets his first dose of remdesivir, which he will continue for five days, according to Garibaldi. “In general, remdesivir is recommended when patients have moderate to severe COVID,” Helen Boucher, an infectious disease expert at Tufts who is not involved in Trump’s care, told an NBC affiliate station. (Could this be a sign that Trump has moderate to severe COVID? Maybe. Or maybe not—earlier this year Trump’s doctor gave him hydroxychloroquine, an experimental COVID treatment, preventatively.)
At some point on Friday, Trump’s condition becomes “very concerning,” according to comments made to pool reporters by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Saturday. According to a report from the Associated Press, citing a person familiar with the president’s condition, Trump also received supplemental oxygen while he was at the White House on Friday. This seems to fit with Conley’s bizarre hedging of the oxygen issue at a press conference on Saturday—he said the president was not on oxygen “at this moment” and hadn’t been on Thursday or while at the hospital on Friday.
At 11:31 p.m., Trump appears to have access to his phone again:
“He’s doing so well,” Conley says at the press conference that included all the other confusing timeline stuff. He also couldn’t say that Trump was out of the woods: “With a known course of the illness, day seven to 10, we get really concerned about the inflammatory phase, phase two.”
Correction, Oct. 5, 2020: This piece originally misstated that Trump announced on Twitter that he and Melania tested positive for COVID-19 at 12:54 a.m. EST. It was EDT.
Correction, Oct. 3, 2020: This piece originally misstated that the antibody treatment Donald Trump is taking is polyclonal. It is monoclonal.