A sitting president becoming seriously ill a month before an election is unprecedented, and the situation is made all the more dramatic by conflicting reports of how President Trump is really doing in his personal battle against COVID-19.
Trump entered Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Virginia on Friday, one day after testing positive for COVID-19. He reportedly experienced a fever, cough, and other classic symptoms of the potentially lethal virus that has killed over 200,000 Americans so far.
Two days into his treatment at the facility, Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows expressed renewed optimism Sunday during a press briefing, stating that the President is "improving." He did, however, note that Trump had exhibited "very concerning" symptoms Friday and Saturday, more so than the White House had previously been willing to reveal.
On Saturday, Meadows had given alarming information to reporters as an unnamed source, saying, "The President's vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We are still not on a clear path to a full recovery." He was later identified as the source.
Trump's doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, on Sunday admitted that the President had suffered two critical drops in the oxygen level in his blood, and was given the steroid dexamethasone, which is usually reserved for severe cases. Trump is also still on a five-day cycle of remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has proven effective in moderate to severe cases of COVID-19.
Trump, reportedly upset that Meadows had contradicted the rosier outlook offered by Conley, appeared in a video, saying, "I came here, wasn't feeling so well, I feel much better now." Many observers noted that the video appeared to edit out a cough, and the hashtag #staged trended on Twitter.
Trump went on to thank people for sending well-wishes and foreign leaders for sending "condolences" on his condition.
"I'm doing well... the First Lady is doing very well," he also reported, pointing out that Melania Trump's relative youth has made battling the virus easier for her.
Trump also released images purporting to show himself reviewing and signing documents.
In his Sunday remarks, Conley was grilled by the media as to why he had previously said Trump had only a mild case of COVID-19, when it would appear from what we know now that he is having at least a moderate if not severe case. "I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction," Conley said. "And in doing so, you know, it came off that we're trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true."
He summarized optimistically, "The matter is, is that [Trump's] doing really well."