President Donald Trump was taken to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland late Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus, as White House officials describe an “anxious” administration shaken by the president’s diagnosis.
Trump boarded Marine One without addressing reporters, but gave a thumbs up, clad in a mask, before taking off at sunset. In a video released online, he said, “I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out.” He arrived at 6:20 p.m. Eastern, stepping down from the helicopter alone and getting into a black SUV.
He was followed by a couple of aides, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. As the motorcade passed by the press pool, which was positioned across the street from the landing zone, the president waved.
Trump will be at Walter Reed “for the next few days,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
Trump had been in the residence on the second floor of the presidential mansion since receiving a positive COVID-19 test result in the early hours of the morning.
Officials have characterized his symptoms as “mild,” but the president developed a cough and a fever — two common symptoms of the novel disease — early in the day.
He began taking treatments at the direction of his doctors, according to a memo from the White House physician released by the press office.
“President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day,” McEnany said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.”
The treatment includes an experimental antibody cocktail produced by Regeneron, which has shown promise in reducing the viral load in positive coronavirus patients and alleviating their symptoms, as well as zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin.
“He’s tired,” one source familiar with the matter told McClatchy. In the memo released by the White House, Trump’s physician Sean Conley described him as “fatigued but in good spirits.”
WHITE HOUSE SHAKEN
A White House that has for weeks been drifting away from established public health guidelines to control the spread of the coronavirus was shocked into action in the early hours of Friday by Trump’s diagnosis.
Several senior staff members decided on their own not to report for work in-person, and those who did show up began wearing masks in the tight quarters of the West Wing, where face coverings were mandatory only for a brief period last May after one of the first positive cases was identified in the building.
Those face coverings are going to become a requirement again, one senior official said — not just in the West Wing, but in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door that houses most White House staff.
The news that the president and first lady Melania Trump were positive for COVID-19 – a disease that could hobble the first couple for weeks, just one month out from Election Day – was followed by a confirmation of several positive cases among individuals who have visited the White House or met with Trump over the past week.
The first lady “remains well with only a mild cough and headache,” the White House physician wrote.
Contact tracers at the White House are now mapping out who infected individuals interacted with in recent days. Over months of study, scientists have reached a consensus that the disease could have an incubation period between two and 14 days after an individual has been infected.
Trump’s staff quickly acknowledged that the president is in several high-risk categories, and might on the advice of his White House physician consider additional therapeutic drugs that could stave off a more serious infection.
The president, 74, is clinically overweight and has taken medicine to manage his cholesterol levels. Men and the elderly also face greater odds of serious cases or death from the coronavirus.
On average, individuals who get severe cases experience worsening health between five and 10 days from the onset of symptoms. Trump reportedly began feeling symptoms on Wednesday.
Before the president’s physician released an update, another White House official noted that Trump has previously expressed a willingness to take Remdesivir, one of the few drugs that has a proven ability of lessening the severity of the disease in later stages. Trump this spring said he had taken hydroxychloroquine — a drug that the FDA has advised Americans not to take to treat the coronavirus — in the hopes that it would help him stave off infection.
Trump canceled a planned trip to Florida on Friday as well as all additional foreseeable travel, and had Vice President Mike Pence fill in for him on a call regarding COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump was still working the phones during recovery, calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., after his diagnosis.
Meadows would not speculate what types of therapies the president might consider now that he is battling the virus.
“He continues to be not only in good spirits but very energetic,” Meadows said.
“I’m not going to get into any particular treatment that he may or may not have. He has mild symptoms,” Meadows told reporters. “The doctors continue to monitor both his health and the health of the first lady.”
McClatchy White House correspondent Francesca Chambers contributed to this report.