BETHESDA, Md. — It was a perfect surreal cap to a surreal weekend: President Trump briefly left the hospital where he was getting treated for COVID-19 for a drive-by greeting of supporters assembled outside.
It was the end-note for a weekend of conflicting accounts and muddled messaging from the White House about how sick Trump has been and whether he knowingly risked exposing others before his hospitalization.
At least seven others who attended the White House Rose Garden event on Sept. 26 announcing Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court nominee have learned they have the coronavirus, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Trump, who is actively battling the virus, left Walter Reed Military Medical Center briefly on Sunday in an SUV – he shared the vehicle with Security Service agents, waved and gave thumbs-up to people who had gathered for him. He returned to the hospital after his short foray outside.
It was also unsurprising that Trump continued to embrace his favorite medium, Twitter, posting a video that sought to show his physical improvement after three days of illness.
“I learned a lot about COVID,” he says. “I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the ‘let’s read the books’ school.”
He added: “And I get it. And I understand it.”
Launching a bombshell early Friday, Trump had Tweeted that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 after Hope Hicks, a close aide, tested positive.
Also in contact with the president in recent days and now infected with the virus are Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was admitted to a hospital Saturday.
On Friday evening, Trump was transported to Walter Reed.
Late Saturday morning, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley updated reporters on the president’s condition, giving a rosy assessment, refusing to detail his vitals and dodging questions on when — if ever — Trump had been on supplementary oxygen. Conley’s account was contradicted immediately after the news conference.
A source familiar with Trump’s health – speaking initially off the record but later identified as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – told reporters that the president’s vital statistics over the prior 24 hours were “very concerning” and the path to his recovery was not yet clear.
Several news outlets later reported that Trump had been on supplementary oxygen early Friday before he was taken to Walter Reed.
In a Sunday briefing, Conley acknowledged that doctors had administered supplementary oxygen to Trump.
He still would not get specific about the president’s health but said the president was given the steroid dexamethasone.
Conley’s memos in past days have additionally revealed Trump also received doses of the antiviral Remdesivir and Regeneron’s experimental polyclonal antibody cocktail.
Trump and the White House over the weekend posted videos of him thanking supporters and distributed photos depicting him working from his hospital suite.
White House communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters Sunday that Trump first tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
The president had traveled to his Bedminister, New Jersey, golf club for a fundraising that evening.
On Wednesday, he held a massive campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota.
A day prior, he debated Joe Biden in Cleveland.
Farah and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany would not confirm Sunday whether the president took a COVID test just before the debate.
Biden’s campaign said Sunday he has tested negative for the Coronavirus for the third time since the debate. Their next debate is now very much up in the air.