President Donald Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center early Friday evening less than 24 hours after news broke of his Covid-19 diagnosis, plunging the country into a deepening crisis as the circle of current and former aides to the President testing positive rapidly widened.
By early Saturday, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and the President’s campaign manager Bill Stepien had both tested positive, which followed the positive diagnoses of two US senators who had attended Trump’s Supreme Court nomination announcement last weekend, and Trump senior adviser Hope Hicks on Thursday. A third Republican US senator, who did not attend the nomination event, announced a positive diagnosis later Saturday morning.
It was a remarkably fast escalation of the virus’ threat — which the President has long downplayed — from an infection that caused him mild symptoms, to a fever to then being airlifted to the hospital, all while spreading quickly throughout the government and his campaign.
Shortly before midnight, the President’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley finally gave an update on the President’s condition, saying in a memo that the President is “doing very well” and has not required any supplemental oxygen, but that doctors have initiated the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has been shown to shorten recovery time for some coronavirus patients.
Conley added that he had recommended the President’s movement from the White House to Walter Reed earlier Friday in consultation with specialists from both Walter Reed and Johns Hopkins University.
Around the same time, Trump tweeted: “Going well, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”
Trump’s diagnosis — followed by his move to Walter Reed, where the White House said he plans to stay and work for “the next few days” — presented the most serious known health threat to the US presidency since former President Ronald Reagan was non-fatally shot in 1981.
The decision to take Trump to the hospital marked a sharp turn from the statement Conley made early Friday when he first confirmed the Covid-19 diagnosis of Trump and first lady Melania Trump, and said the couple would remain at the White House during their convalescence.
Wearing a suit and mask, Trump, who’s 74, gave a low-key wave to the press but took no questions as he walked without assistance across the South Lawn of the White House to Marine One, the helicopter that airlifted him to the hospital.