Trump’s possible departure could send a signal that his health is improving following his diagnosis. But the move is bound to breed skepticism among those who have criticized administration officials for a lack of transparency on the president’s condition, particularly in light of the numerous treatments he is known to have taken.
“The discharge decision will be made later today between the president and his medical team,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told NBC.
Trump, 74, had entered the hospital just three days earlier on Friday evening, the same day he revealed that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19.
The president has been mostly sequestered in Walter Reed’s presidential wing since departing the White House but has spoken out in tweets and in a handful of videos posted to his social media.
On Sunday, Trump also made a surprise drive-by appearance outside the hospital, where he waved from the backseat window of an SUV to his supporters who had gathered there.
Health experts and other critics, who have pointed to the president’s current condition as a sobering example of the unserious approach he has taken to fighting the pandemic overall, promptly condemned the move.
Meadows, speaking on Fox News earlier Monday, said that a final determination “has not been made yet” on whether to bring Trump back to the White House.
“Obviously he continues to improve overnight and his health continues to improve. The doctors will actually have an evaluation some time late morning and then the president in consultation with the doctors will make a decision on whether to discharge him later today,” Meadows said.
“We are still optimistic that based on his unbelievable progress and — and how strong he has been in terms of his fight against this Covid-19 disease, that he will be released, but that decision won’t be made until later today,” the chief of staff said.
If he did return from Walter Reed on Monday, the president might still be infectious and would likely be isolated within the White House. The White House campus includes an advanced medical unit.
On Sunday, Trump’s doctors said they had begun treating him with the steroid dexamethasone. His physician, Dr. Sean Conley, had already revealed that the president has taken the experimental antiviral therapy remdesivir, along with zinc, vitamin D, melatonin, a daily aspirin and the histamine blocker famotidine. Trump has also taken an experimental antibody cocktail from pharmaceutical giant Regeneron, Conley said.
The decision to treat Trump with dexamethasone “implies a higher degree of severity than what we knew on Friday and Saturday,” infectious diseases physician Dr. Nahid Bhadelia told CNBC on Sunday.
The president’s doctors, in a press briefing outside Walter Reed on Saturday, had offered a rosy prognosis, saying his symptoms are improving. But a White House official quickly undermined that narrative, telling reporters minutes after the presser that “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.”
Outlets later identified the person as Meadows.
The president tested positive for the virus less than five weeks out from the presidential election against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
The coronavirus, which had already played a central role in the 2020 campaign, has become virtually the sole defining issue of the race following Trump’s hospitalization.
Trump has aggressively defended his administration’s job battling the pandemic, from which more deaths have been reported in the U.S. than in any other country. At least 209,734 people in the U.S. have died from Covid-19, and more than 7.41 million cases have been counted, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In their virulent first debate last week, Trump told Biden that millions more Americans would have died from Covid-19 if the former vice president had been in power.
Viewers of the debate overall said that Biden outmatched Trump, whose performance was marked by frequent interruptions, according to polls taken after the Tuesday night showdown.
Biden, who already held a steady lead over Trump heading into the contest, emerged with an even wider gap: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, for instance, found Biden leading by 14 percentage points over the incumbent. That’s a marked rise from the pollster’s previous survey last month, which had Biden leading Trump by 8 points.
As of Monday morning, the two candidates remain slated to participate in two more debates, the first of which is set for Oct. 15. But it’s far from clear whether the debates will proceed as scheduled.