Oct. 5 (UPI) — President Donald Trump could be discharged from the hospital as soon as Monday, as criticism mounts over his brief ride outside to greet supporters.Trump made a surprise excursion Sunday evening outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where was admitted Friday for treatment of COVID-19. He wore a cloth mask while sitting in the back seat of an SUV and waved at cheering supporters around the hospital. At least two people were seen in the car with him.
Doctors criticized the trip as careless and said it flagrantly flouted precautions designed to contain the coronavirus.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater,” Walter Reed attending physician Dr. James Phillips, who is also a doctor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, tweeted.
“Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
“That presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack,” he wrote in another post. “The risk of COVID-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding.”
The Washington Post reported that current and former Secret Service officials criticized the drive, as well as Trump aides.
Trump announced his diagnosis early Friday and he was flown the hospital later that evening aboard Marine One. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley told reporters Sunday Trump has shown improvement.
The White House dismissed concerns about Trump’s motorcade drive outside the hospital, saying it had been cleared by medical staff.
“Appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE,” spokesman Judd Deere said. “The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”
Doctors said Sunday the president could be moved back to the White House as early as Monday. But Conley acknowledged the president’s oxygen levels had dropped twice since Friday and that he’d been treated with the powerful steroid dexamethasone, which is recommended only for COVID-19 patients who need oxygen, including those on ventilators.
Administering the drug risks a systemic inflammatory response that can lead to lung injury and multisystem organ dysfunction, the National Institutes of Health warns.
Trump also received two doses of the antiviral drug remdesivir that was authorized for emergency use in May for treating hospitalized patients with the coronavirus.
Some experts have voiced concern about a premature release.
“For someone sick enough to have required remdesivir and dexamethasone, I can’t think of a situation in which a patient would be okay to leave on day three, even with the White House’s medical capacity,” University of California, San Francisco professor Robert Wachter told The Washington Post.
Doctors say COVID-19 patients remain especially vulnerable to complications for as many as 10 days after their first symptoms — and sometimes deteriorate suddenly. Trump’s age and weight place him in a high-risk category.
The prospect of Trump quickly returning to the White House was also questioned by former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who said he was more concerned about his health after Sunday’s briefing.
“Sounds very much like [Trump] has inflammatory changes on chest CT,” Gottlieb told CNBC.
First lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive, remains in isolation at the White House.
The president posted several tweets early Monday, slamming news media and calling for his supporters to vote.