President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and details about his care dominated headlines over the weekend. We’re bringing coverage and analysis to you in a news roundup.
Pharma companies have made plenty of headlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now their products are treating their most high-profile patient: President Donald Trump. As the crisis around his diagnosis unfolded over the weekend, all eyes were on Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the doctors treating him there.
Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday evening but didn’t disclose the result immediately as he waited for confirmation, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. By late Friday, he was taken to Walter Reed. Officials said he was transported “out of an abundance of caution,” but more info came to light over the weekend that raised concern among experts.
Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, briefed the media at two short press conferences Saturday and Sunday. During the course of his illness, the president has received Regeneron’s experimental monoclonal antibody, Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir and most recently the steroid dexamethasone, his doctors have said. In a video posted to Twitter on Saturday, Trump called the therapeutics “miracles.”
Regeneron has also reached out to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign to make sure they know the antibody is available. Aside from researching the drug as a treatment, Regeneron is testing its antibody as a potential preventative therapy for people who have been exposed to the virus, CNBC’s Meg Tirrell wrote on Twitter.
While Trump’s doctors said yesterday that he was “doing well,” the decision to give him dexamethasone raised concerns among medical experts, the New York Times reports. The decades-old steroid has been shown to benefit severe patients, but isn’t typically used for patients with mild or moderate cases. In June, investigators in the U.K. showed that the drug cut deaths in COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized and requiring oxygen.
In September, a series of trials confirmed that finding, and the World Health Organization issued a “strong recommendation” for the drugs in severe and critical COVID-19 cases.
“Corticosteroids are inexpensive, readily available, and based on these data, are associated with reduced mortality in critically ill patients with COVID-19,” doctors wrote in an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Also Sunday, Dr. Conley disclosed that Trump experienced “two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation” during the course of his illness. Further, he said there are “expected findings” on a CT scan—without providing further details. Those disclosures, plus lack of clarity around them, also raised concern.
On @CNN @drsanjaygupta just said of latest medical briefing on @POTUS #COVID19 “It’s extremely concernung” — I agree. Conley was evasive regarding lung scans plus 2 episodes dropped O2 plus inflammation requiring steroids.
— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) October 4, 2020
Yet, later in the day, Trump and members of the United States Secret Service did a short drive-by for the president’s supporters outside of the Walter Reed Medical Center. The move sparked criticism, including from Walter Reed attending physician James P. Phillips, that the president was endangering Secret Service members in the vehicle.
That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.
— Dr. James P. Phillips, MD (@DrPhillipsMD) October 4, 2020
It isn’t completely clear whether Trump’s aggressive care is due to the potential severity of his case, or whether it’s because he’s the president. Some doctors have raised the concern that he could be overtreated.
Officials have said Trump could be back at the White House as soon as today. The decision over whether he’ll head back to the White House will be up to the president and his medical team, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told ABC News reporter Katherine Faulders.
Meanwhile, several other people who attended the White House’s Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett have since tested positive, including three Republican senators. The New York Times has more details about the event and possible spread there.
“I don’t think the procedures around the president were providing him the protection he needed and deserved,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the Washington Post. “The cavalier approach that put the president at risk extended into some of the policy choices that were made and how they approached COVID as a matter of public policy.”