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Trump says he’s about to leave hospital, feels good: ‘Don’t be afraid of COVID’

‘I feel better than I did 20 years ago!’ US president tweets, as his doctor stresses he ‘may not entirely be out of the woods yet’

In this image provided by the White House, US President Donald Trump listens during a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, October 4, 2020, in his conference room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Tia Dufour/The White House via AP)
In this image provided by the White House, US President Donald Trump listens during a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, October 4, 2020, in his conference room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Tia Dufour/The White House via AP)

BETHESDA, Maryland (AP) — US President Donald Trump said Monday that he would be leaving the military hospital where he had been treated for three days due to symptoms of COVID-19, and will continue his recovery at the White House.

Trump tweeted: “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. … I feel better than I did 20 years ago!

He was expected to make the journey aboard the presidential helicopter, Marine One.

Trump’s medical team says the president “may not entirely be out of the woods yet” as he heads back home to the White House.

Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, delivered an update on the president’s health shortly afterwards. He said Trump “may not entirely be out of the woods yet” but he and the team “agree that all our evaluations and, most importantly, his clinical status support the president’s safe return home, where he’ll be surrounded by world class medical care.”

Doctors said that he will continue to receive his treatments from the White House.

Trump’s return comes as the scale of the outbreak within the White House itself was still being uncovered and hours after press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she tested positive for the virus on Monday morning and was entering isolation. The White House said that Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, would brief reporters at 3 p.m. The doctors had not released an update on the president’s condition since Sunday morning.

White House officials said Trump was anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where doctors revealed on Sunday that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days, and that they had given him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick.

US President Donald Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020. (ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

Less than one month before Election Day, Trump was eager to project strength, despite his illness. The still-infectious president surprised supporters who had gathered outside the hospital, riding by Sunday in a black SUV with the windows rolled up. Secret Service agents inside the vehicle could be seen in masks and other protective gear.

The move capped a weekend of contradictions that fueled confusion about Trump’s health, which has imperiled the leadership of the US government and upended the final stages of the presidential campaign. While Trump’s physician offered a rosy prognosis on his condition, his briefings lacked basic information, including the findings of lung scans, or were quickly muddled by more serious assessments of the president’s health by other officials.

In a short video released by the White House on Sunday, Trump insisted that he understood the gravity of the moment. But his actions moments later, by leaving the hospital and sitting inside the SUV with others, suggested otherwise.

McEnany spoke briefly with reporters Sunday evening without wearing a mask, and said that no members of the White House press corps had spent enough time around her to be considered close contacts.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany takes off her face covering before speaking with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best evidence is that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 are no longer contagious about 10 days after symptom onset. People with more severe cases of the disease are likely no longer contagious 20 days after symptom onset, according to those guidelines. That means isolation — whether in the hospital or at home — is supposed to last for at least 10 days.

Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, said that the Democratic presidential nominee again tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday. The results came five days after Biden spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Trump. Biden, who has taken a far more cautious approach to in-person events — and has been mocked repeatedly for it by Trump — had two negative tests on Friday.

Trump’s doctors sidestepped questions on Sunday about exactly when their patient’s blood oxygen dropped — episodes they neglected to mention in multiple statements the day before — or whether lung scans showed any damage.

It was the second straight day of obfuscation from a White House already suffering from a credibility crisis. And it raised more doubts about whether the doctors treating the president were sharing accurate, timely information with the American public about the severity of his condition.

Even before Trump’s motorcade outing on Sunday, some Secret Service agents had expressed concern about the lackadaisical attitude toward masks and social distancing inside the White House, but there is little they can do, according to agents and officials who spoke to The Associated Press. This close to the election, thousands of agents are engaged on protective duty, so they can be subbed out quickly should someone test positive.

Dr. Sean Conley, physician to US President Donald Trump, is followed by a team of doctors for a briefing with reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, October 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

According to CDC guidelines, in general, transport and movement of a patient with suspected or confirmed infection of the virus that causes COVID-19 “outside of their room should be limited to medically essential purposes.”

The disclosures about Trump’s oxygen levels and steroid treatment suggested that the president is enduring more than a mild case of COVID-19.

Signs of pneumonia or other lung damage could be detected in scans before a patient feels short of breath, but the president’s doctors declined to say what those scans have revealed.

Asked about Conley’s lack of transparency, White House aide Alyssa Farah suggested the doctors were speaking as much to the president as to the American public: “When you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence, you want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent.”

In all, nearly 7.4 million people have been infected in the United States, and few have access to the kind of around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments as Trump.

Trump’s treatment with the steroid dexamethasone is in addition to the single dose he was given Friday of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus. Trump on Friday also began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus, and remdesivir curbs the virus’ ability to multiply.

US President Donald Trump, center, stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett as they arrive for a news conference to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie watches from fourth row from front on far right, on September 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The steroid’s use has only been proven to help in more serious cases. Among the concerns with earlier use is that steroids tamp down certain immune cells, hindering the body’s own ability to fight off infection.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications.

First Lady Melania Trump has remained at the White House, as she recovers from her own bout with the virus.

Many in the White House are also shaken and scared — nervous that they have been exposed to the virus and confronting the reality that what seemed like a bubble of safety has become a COVID-19 hot spot. It took until late Sunday for the White House to send a generic note to staffers suggesting that they not come to the building if they do not feel well.

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