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President Donald Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday for briefings, despite remaining under treatment for COVID-19 and potentially contagious.
Trump’s doctor said earlier that he hadn’t experienced any symptoms of the disease in 24 hours. He was discharged from the hospital after three days of treatment on Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 isolate themselves for at least 10 days after their symptoms first appear. But Trump has been agitating since Tuesday to return to the Oval Office, over the objections of some of his staff.
A White House spokesman, Brian Morgenstern, said that while in the Oval Office, Trump was briefed on stimulus talks and the latest hurricane to threaten U.S. shores.
In a tweet, Trump said he had spoken with the governors of Texas and Louisiana about the storm, Hurricane Delta. He didn’t indicate whether his briefing or the calls took place in the Oval Office.
While the White House physician, Sean Conley, hasn’t said definitively if Trump remains contagious, he is being treated as if he could spread the disease. Only his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and social media director, Dan Scavino, are sharing the Oval Office with the president, according to a person familiar with the matter. Anyone in Trump’s vicinity will use full personal protective equipment, the person said.
Trump entered the Oval Office from the outside of the White House, instead of walking through the West Wing, the person said.
Meadows told reporters earlier Wednesday that if Trump returned to the Oval Office, “we’ve got safety protocols there, that are not only from a PPE standpoint but from a ventilation standpoint in the Oval, where we can actually work to that end as well.”
Trump announced Tuesday that he had pulled out of stimulus talks with House Democrats, after failing to bridge differences between their US$2 trillion bill and the position of Senate Republicans, many of whom want to spend far less money.
It wasn’t clear what specifically he was briefed on Wednesday, though he has also said he’d like narrower measures to provide money to airlines, small businesses and individual Americans.
“The stimulus negotiations are off,” Meadows told reporters earlier. “Obviously we’re looking at the potential for standalone bills.”
The president hasn’t appeared in public since making a made-for-television return to the White House late Monday, and his doctors haven’t fielded questions about his condition since then, including whether he’s still on a steroid, dexamethasone, that sometimes is accompanied by psychiatric side effects.
Tuesday was the first day since Trump fell ill that he didn’t appear in public or release a video address.
The White House physician said earlier that Trump’s oxygen levels and respiratory rate are stable, in a statement that omitted several key details about the president’s condition.
“His physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range,” the physician, Sean Conley, wrote in a memorandum.
Conley added that Trump has been fever-free for more than 4 days and “has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization.” Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday.
On Monday, the White House released specific measures of some of Trump’s vital signs, such as his blood oxygen level, blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. Wednesday’s letter from Conley did not include any of those specific details.
The White House also has not confirmed whether Trump received a planned fifth and final dose of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir, one of three drugs administered to help him fight the virus.
Conley’s letter Wednesday said that Trump, in samples taken Monday, had “detectable levels” of antibodies as compared to samples taken Thursday, when the president had tested positive. Conley has previously said that he gave Trump an 8 gram dose of a Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. antibody treatment on Friday.
The company said in a statement Wednesday that its treatment may have caused the positive antibody test.
Conley’s letter Wednesday began: “The president this morning says ‘I feel great!’”