Donald Trump has told Americans not to be “afraid” of coronavirus as he announced he would be leaving hospital and returning to the White House on Monday evening.
The US president delivered the news by tweet. The decision came despite Mr Trump testing positive for Covid-19 just four days earlier, around Thursday evening.
“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good!” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
The remarks followed widespread US media reports that Mr Trump had been pushing his doctors to release him from hospital with the election less than a month away and speculation about his health dominating TV news coverage.
The tweet, in particular his call for Americans not to fear the virus, also indicated that Mr Trump appears ready to double down on his recent approach to the pandemic, which has been to push for reopenings to get the economy growing again.
However the decision raised major questions about the responsibility of releasing Mr Trump from his hospital in Washington DC when he was still battling the virus and taking a number of experimental treatments.
It also remains unclear exactly how Mr Trump would be operating out of the White House in a safe way, given the full scale of the outbreak there which has grown again.
It emerged on Monday that Mr Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two other press officials had tested positive for Covid-19.
I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020
Dr Sean Conley, the president’s physician, and a team of other doctors who have been treating Mr Trump took to the steps of the Walter Reed Medical Center to brief the press on the decision moments after Mr Trump tweeted it out.
They said that Mr Trump had been fever-free for 72 hours, was not complaining about shortness of breath and his kidneys and liver were functioning as normal.
Dr Conley said that Mr Trump had met “all standard discharge criteria” and insisted the decision was safe and had been signed off by the medical group.
However he said that Mr Trump would “not entirely be out of the woods” for some time and would have to be monitored carefully throughout the rest of this week and the weekend.
During the briefing, Dr Conley also revealed new information that again spoke to the potential seriousness of Mr Trump’s illness, even as he was planning to leave the hospital.
Dr Conley confirmed that Mr Trump had been given oxygen on Saturday as well as Friday when his oxygen levels dropped.
He said that Mr Trump remained on dexamethasone, a steroids treatment that is generally advised to be taken by patients with serious cases of Covid-19.
It was confirmed that Mr Trump would be taking a fourth dose of Remdesivir, an experimental drug, later on Monday and a fifth dose was planned to be administered on Tuesday in the White House.
Dr Conley also declined to reveal the details of tests on the president’s lungs. Asked if they had revealed any signs of pneumonia, as sometimes is seen in Covid-19 patients, Dr Conley said he was "not at liberty to discuss” that topic.
During the briefing the president’s doctors projected an upbeat assessment of the state of Mr Trump’s illness.
“He’s back”, Dr Conley said, telling a reporter who asked whether the president was experiencing any “fogginess” that he was not.
"The president has been a phenomenal patient”, Dr Conley said at one point, addressing speculation that Mr Trump may have pushed doctors to approve an early release.
“He’s holding court with those of us around him”, Dr Conley said, adding: “He’s never once pushed us to do anything that was beyond safe and reasonable practice.”
It is unclear exactly where Mr Trump will be working from in the White House, with doctors declining to say if he would be using the Oval Office as well as his residence.
They said that the president would be monitored “twenty-four seven” by the medical team at the White House.
The doctors would also not say when it would be safe for Mr Trump to go back out on the campaign trail, with the US election less than a month away.
Dr Conley said it would not be until Monday that doctors will be able to “take that final deep sigh of relief” and know he has shaken off the virus.