WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Donald Trump on Wednesday credited an experimental drug treatment with helping his recovery from COVID-19 and suggested his diagnosis could be a “blessing in disguise” for the nation’s battle against the pandemic — even though there is no way for the president or his doctors to know that the drug had any effect.
In a new White House video posted Wednesday evening, Trump said his illness had shed light on an experimental antibody cocktail that he credited for his improved condition. Seemingly sensitive to the fact that his treatment course is far from that received by average Americans, he promised to swiftly get the drugs approved for use — and for free — even though he does not have the power to order that himself.
“I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great,” Trump said from the Rose Garden. “I feel like perfect.”
Trump received an experimental antiviral cocktail made by Regeneron through a “compassionate use” exemption, a recognition of the above-and-beyond standard of care he receives as president. The safety and effectiveness of the drug have not yet been proven. And there is no way for the president or his doctors to know that the drug had any effect. Most people recover from COVID-19.
A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT! pic.twitter.com/uhLIcknAjT
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Trump said he believed the cocktail was more than a therapeutic, saying he viewed it as “a cure.” He also said he believed promoting these drugs was “more important than the vaccine.”
“This was a blessing from God that I caught it, this was a blessing in disguise, he said, explaining that it made him aware of these new treatments being developed.
It’s not the first time the president has trumpeted an unproven treatment. He spent months painting the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle treatment for the virus — even taking a preventative course himself — even though experts have said it is not effective against COVID-19.
In the video, Trump also continued to downplay the threat of the virus, promising those who are ill that they’re going to “get better fast just like I did,” even though more than 200,000 people in the US and more than a million worldwide have died from the disease.
Trump posted the video on Twitter Wednesday after aides said he has returned to the Oval Office for a briefing on Hurricane Delta, which is bearing down on the US Gulf Coast, and on economic stimulus prospects —- despite still being contagious two days after he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday,
Aides insisted that only limited staff were around him and that he entered the office from the outside to limit exposure.
Amid questions about when he will return to the campaign trail, Trump also offered a flurry of tweeted broadsides against Democrats and pushed lawmakers to take up piecemeal economic aid proposals after nixing negotiations on a broader assistance package.
Trump’s doctor reported Wednesday that the president continued to make progress in his recovery.
Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said Trump had declared, “I feel great!”
But Trump’s absence from the public gaze — coupled with a lack of detailed information about the president’s health — had raised continued questions about the trajectory of his recovery and when he might be able to return to normal activities, including campaigning, less than four weeks before Election Day.
Conley added in a memo that Trump had been symptom-free for over 24 hours, and that his oxygen saturation level and respiratory rate were normal. The memo also said a blood test Monday showed Trump had coronavirus antibodies, substances that fight infection, but he had been given an experimental drug on Friday containing these.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. says it’s not possible for this type of blood test to distinguish between antibodies Trump’s body may be making and those supplied by the company’s drug. Most likely, the ones detected in the Monday test are from the drug, the company said.
Still, Trump called the drug “the key” to his recovery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says individuals can discontinue isolation 10 days after symptom onset. While reports of reinfection are rare, the CDC recommends that even people who recover from COVID-19 continue to wear a mask, stay distanced and follow other precautions.
Doctors said Trump began showing mild symptoms on Oct. 1.
The White House has been a ghost town since Trump’s return, with many staffers scared of potential exposure. Aides have been instructed to take extensive precautions to prevent themselves from catching the coronavirus from the president.
Access to Trump for White House aides has been extremely limited since his discharge. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and senior adviser Dan Scavino were among those with the president in the Oval Office, according to officials. Those meeting with Trump are required to wear full personal protective gear to minimize their risk.
Trump could have received his briefings elsewhere in the complex, but the president believed it was important that he be seen working from the Oval, according to a White House official who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Amid the national public health crisis, a personal one, and warning flares from leading economists that the virus-scarred economy badly needs stimulus, Trump pushed out more than 55 tweets by early evening praising supporters and eviscerating his opponents.
He again publicly played down the virus on Twitter after his return from a three-day hospitalization, though more aides continued to test positive — including one of his closest advisers, Stephen Miller, who was diagnosed Tuesday. All told, more than a dozen White House staffers have tested positive.
Nonetheless, Trump pushed out video of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaking of her decision to resist COVID-19 restrictions in her state. He also thanked a supporter who tweeted she “would wade though a sea of COVID infested water to vote for President Trump on November 3rd.”
The president also said on Twitter that he had spoken with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards about the hurricane and urged residents in the path of the storm to be safe.
Trump tried to salvage a few priority items lost in the rubble of COVID-19 relief talks that he himself cut off a day earlier, pressing for $1,200 stimulus checks and new aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
In his barrage of tweets, Trump pressed for passage of specific chunks of assistance, an about-face from his abrupt move to abandon talks with a longtime rival, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke briefly Wednesday morning about the chances for a stand-alone airline rescue bill, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted.