“A total and complete sign off from White House Doctors yesterday,” Trump said. “That means I can’t get it (immune), and can’t give it. Very nice to know!!!”
Trump’s claim came one day after his physician said he is “no longer considered a transmission risk to others,” in a memo that seemed to clear Trump to return to his normal activities a little more than a week after he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump is expected to hold a campaign rally Monday in Florida.
Some experts said the letter provided some reassurance that Trump is no longer contagious, but they noted that there is no way to know for sure so soon after a covid-19 diagnosis. The White House has never made clear the severity of Trump’s illness, which could influence how long he should isolate.
The letter from Sean Conley said Trump had met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s criteria for “safe discontinuation of isolation” and that “an assortment of diagnostic tests” found no evidence of actively replicating virus, which must be present for someone to infect others.
It did not say that Trump had tested negative for the virus, however, and its brevity left experts puzzling over what evidence had led the White House physician to conclude the president is no longer contagious.
“The honest answer is, of course, we don’t know, because they haven’t really been fully forthcoming with information either about his treatment or his clinical status,” said Arthur Reingold, who chairs the epidemiology division at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health.
Trump, Conley wrote, was 10 days from the onset of symptoms, had been fever-free for well over 24 hours and his symptoms had improved. That would mean he had met standards at which the CDC says people with mild to moderate cases of covid-19 can stop isolating.
But people with severe cases are advised to isolate for up to 20 days, the CDC says. Trump was hospitalized, administered supplemental oxygen and treated with the steroid dexamethasone, a drug typically used for serious cases, said Albert Ko, an infectious-disease expert at the Yale School of Public Health.
“I think the big question is whether the president had severe or he had mild, moderate disease,” Ko said. “Regardless of what the rules are, I think most physicians would want to be cautious not only about protecting the president, but protecting the people around him. That’s usually our rules of practice. Why risk it?”
Tests can provide other clues as to a person’s contagiousness, but none are foolproof, experts said.
Conley’s memo did not detail the “assortment of diagnostic” tests Trump’s health-care team has used to assess his level of illness. But it said testing throughout the president’s illness had “demonstrated decreasing viral loads that correlate with increasing cycle threshold times, as well as decreasing and now undetectable subgenomic mRNA.”
A negative PCR test, the common laboratory test that detects the virus from nasal and throat swabs,