At the White House residence, Trump removed his mask, flashed thumbs-up and saluted. He did not appear to put his mask on before going inside
US President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday evening after three days of treatment for Covid-19 at a military hospital, and officials plan to significantly restrict physical access to him as he continues his recovery.
“The White House is taking every precaution necessary to protect not only him and the first family, but every staff member working on the complex,” spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement on Monday night. He said that anyone who comes close to Trump would wear personal protective equipment.
Trump only said “thank you very much” to those gathered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before boarding the presidential helicopter for his return flight to the White House. Back at the residence, he walked up the South Portico stairs to the balcony, where he removed his mask, flashed thumbs-up with both hands and saluted for several seconds.
He did not appear to put his mask back on before walking into the residence. The show of defiance towards both the virus and public health measures to combat its spread was in keeping with the president’s tone earlier when he announced he would leave the Bethesda, Maryland, hospital.
In a video released shortly afterward, Trump said of the virus: “Don’t let it dominate you.”
“I knew there’s danger to it. But I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. I know there’s a risk. I know there’s a danger. But that’s OK. And now I’m better. Maybe I’m immune, I don’t know,” he said.
“Get out there, be careful,” Trump added. “The vaccines are coming momentarily.”
The president has received medical care unavailable to most people, including three powerful medicines and an airlift to and from the hospital. The virus has infected more than 7.4-million Americans and has killed more than 210,000 since February, including 475 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Trump will continue to get round-the-clock medical attention from his doctor and other health personnel at the White House, Deere said. The president’s aides hope to keep him at the White House residence and away from the Oval Office but are uncertain how long that will last, according to people familiar with the matter. “We’ll be back on the campaign trail soon!!!” Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital.
“Over the past 24 hours, the president has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all hospital discharge criteria,” White House doctor Sean Conley said at a briefing after Trump’s announcement.
Trump “may not entirely be out of the woods” but the rest of his care can safely be performed at the White House, Conley said.
The president received a fourth dose of an antiviral drug, Remdesivir, at Walter Reed before he was discharged and will get a fifth dose at the White House, his medical team said.
“He’s returning to a facility, the White House medical unit, that’s staffed 24-7,” Conley said. “Every day a patient stays in the hospital unnecessarily is a risk to themselves.”
Conley said coronavirus patients could stop shedding the virus in as few as five days after diagnosis, and that Trump would be monitored to determine when he was no longer infectious. The White House plans for Trump to stay in the residence for a few days before returning to normal, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
The White House is creating additional room for Trump to work in the residence, and avoid heading into the Oval Office, by converting the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room into office space, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Conley conceded that the course of Trump’s illness could still take a turn. “We all remain cautiously optimistic and on guard because we’re in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to a patient that received the therapies he has so early in the course,” he said.
“We’re looking to this weekend,” Conley added. “If we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same or improving, better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief.”
Trump has received doses of two other medicines, including an experimental “antibody cocktail” and a steroid, dexamethasone, usually used to combat inflammation in people with more severe cases of Covid-19.
Trump’s release comes after a weekend of mixed signals from Conley, who on Sunday disclosed for the first time that the president had been given supplemental oxygen and received a medication that’s typically used in more severe Covid-19 patients.
Asked why he didn’t disclose during Saturday’s briefing that Trump had received oxygen despite repeated questions about it, Conley said, “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude” of the team and the president.
Trump was diagnosed with the disease late on Thursday, after a close aide, Hope Hicks, also tested positive for the virus.