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President Trump, undergoing an experimental antiviral treatment, spends a third day in the hospital.

President Trump entered his third day in the hospital on Sunday after contracting the coronavirus and falling ill last week, even as confusing and contradictory accounts about his medical condition added to the national sense of uncertainty and concern for the 74-year-old president’s well-being.

Seeking to project an optimistic image to the world, President Trump released a four-minute video on Saturday evening from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to say that he is “starting to feel good” and would “be back soon.”

Wearing a blue jacket, cuff links and an American flag pin but no necktie, the president looked much paler than he did during his debate in Cleveland on Tuesday with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Thanking the staff at Walter Reed, Mr. Trump said that he “wasn’t feeling so well” when he arrived at the hospital on Friday, but that he felt “much better now.”

On Saturday night, the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, released a new statement, saying that Mr. Trump had made “substantial progress” and would be monitored closely as he undergoes a five-day experimental antiviral drug regimen for Covid-19 and continues to receive doses of remdesivir, a drug that has shown some efficacy at speeding recovery.

“While not out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic,” Dr. Conley noted.

But that optimism was not shared by everyone close to the president and just a few hours earlier, Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, had offered a darker picture.

“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning,” Mr. Meadows said. “And the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.”

Many doctors stressed the critical period of time — about seven to 10 days after infection — when a patient’s condition can take a turn for the worse. Some people respond to an infection with an overly exuberant immune response that can worsen their illness and even prove fatal.

The release of only sketchy information made it difficult for outside medical experts to assess the president’s condition and the lack of clear communication was compounded by the vagaries of a virus that continues to puzzle scientists.

Some 7.3 million Americans have been infected since the pandemic swept around the world and more than 208,000 have died.

Tens of thousands have suffered serious illness with an untold number dogged by symptoms weeks or even months after infection.

It remained unclear when Mr. Trump was infected. But his case is part of a widening outbreak in the nation’s capital, with scores of people the president had contact with in recent days testing positive.

At least seven people who attended a White House event on Sept. 26 have since tested positive for the coronavirus. Six of them, including the first lady, sat in the first several rows of a Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the White House Rose Garden. The seventh was the president himself.

Gov. Chris Christie

Trump receiving remdesivir antiviral drug as part of experimental treatment

President Donald Trump is receiving an experimental antiviral for Covid-19 called remdesivir as he remains hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The drug is being given as part of a double-barreled treatment plan that includes an antibody cocktail meant to give the president’s immune system a boost to fight off the coronavirus.

The president was given the first dose of remdesivir Friday evening and will be on a five-day course of the IV drug, his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said during a news conference Saturday.

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Remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, works by lowering the amount of virus in the body. Clinical trial data published in May found that the drug reduced patients’ length of hospital stay by about four days, from 15 days to a median of 11 days.

In July, additional data showed remdesivir may reduce deaths.

“It’s not really a treatment in the sense that it’ll cure people,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said Saturday on MSNBC. “It will just hopefully reduce the fatality rate and reduce the course of the illness.”

Remdesivir is generally used for patients who need supplemental oxygen, although Conley said Trump did not need help breathing Saturday morning. When pressed during the briefing about whether the president had ever received supplemental oxygen, Conley persistently said the president had not received oxygen on Thursday or while at Walter Reed on Friday and Saturday.

It was unclear whether the president needed oxygen at another time.

Conley told reporters Saturday that Trump is doing “very well” but the coming days will be critical to the president’s recovery.

“With the known course of the illness, day seven to 10, we get really concerned about the inflammatory phase, phase two,” Conley said. “Given that we provided some of these advanced therapies so early in the course, a little bit earlier than most of the patients we know and follow, it’s hard to tell where he is on that course.”

Not the usual care

In addition to remdesivir, the president has received a combination antibody treatment. It’s a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies. Antibodies act by recognizing specific germs — in this case, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 — and harnessing the immune system to fight them off.

“We are maximizing all aspects of his care, attacking this virus with a multi-pronged approach,” Conley said. “He’s the president, and I didn’t want to hold anything back. If there was any possibility that it would add value to his care and expedite his return, I wanted to take it.”

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The double-barreled approach is not usual care for patients in the president’s condition, especially since both treatments are still in clinical trial.

But in theory, the two would work “synergistically,” said Dr. Hugh Cassiere, director of critical care services for