Covid-19 Live Updates: Countering Top Aide’s Comments, Trump Says He Feels Better
Covid-19 Live Updates: Countering Top Aide’s Comments, Trump Says He Feels Better
On Saturday, President Trump released a four-minute video from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he is receiving inpatient care for the coronavirus, to say that he is “starting to feel good.”
Wearing a blue jacket, cuff links and an American flag pin but no necktie, the president looked much paler than he did during his debate in Cleveland on Tuesday with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Thanking the staff at Walter Reed, Trump said that he “wasn’t feeling so well” when he arrived at the hospital on Friday, but that he felt “much better now.”
He congratulated himself for his job performance and said, “I think I’ll be back soon.”
The video, released Saturday evening, contrasted with what Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, had told reporters earlier in the day outside the hospital. “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning,” Mr. Meadows said. “And the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.”
For a president who often serves as his own spokesman, the video’s release may have been a way to reclaim the narrative from doctors who have offered conflicting reports of the president’s health, and from statements made by his own White House staff.
According to people close to the president, he was furious about Mr. Meadows’s comments. With only a month remaining until the Nov. 3 election, there is precious little time to recast the president’s current health problems in a positive light before the nation decides whether to give him a second term in office. Mr. Trump has canceled previously scheduled public appearances, and it is unclear whether he will be able to rejoin the campaign trail.
No matter the tone of the video, the public has been left without a clear picture of the president’s health. Military doctors on Saturday morning offered a rosy picture of the president’s medical condition at a televised news conference outside Walter Reed. Afterward, Mr. Meadows told reporters that the president’s health was more worrisome, though he asked that that assessment not be attributed to him by name.
Soon, however, it became clear that Mr. Meadows was the source of the information once a video posted online captured him approaching the pool reporters outside Walter Reed after the doctors’ televised briefing and asking to speak off the record.
Mr. Meadows later tried to walk back his comments. “The president is doing very well,” he told Reuters. “He is up and about and asking for documents to review.” He called into Fox News on Saturday night, knowing the president was most likely watching, and praised his “unbelievable courage” and “unbelievable improvement.” But he also confirmed that Mr. Trump’s condition on Friday was worse than originally described. “Yesterday morning we were real concerned with that,” Mr. Meadows said. “He had a fever and his blood oxygen level had dropped rapidly.”
Despite the back-and-forth tussle over messaging, both Mr. Meadows and Mr. Trump agreed on a central point: The president’s potential for recovery is uncertain at the moment.
“You don’t know over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test,” Mr. Trump said.
On President Trump’s first full day of hospitalization with the coronavirus, conflicting statements by his doctors and aides raised doubts about his condition, including when his illness was diagnosed and whether he had been treated with oxygen at any point.
In the latest update on Mr. Trump’s health, the White House physician, Sean P. Conley, said in a statement Saturday night that while the president is “not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic.”
As of Saturday night, Mr. Trump had no fever, was not receiving supplemental oxygen and had made “substantial progress” since his diagnosis, Dr. Conley said. He said the president would remain under observation on Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
In a televised briefing on Saturday morning, Dr. Conley had offered a relentlessly positive assessment of Mr. Trump’s condition. “The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” he said.
But Dr. Conley and other doctors on the team refused to provide critical details and left an impression that the president was known to be sick a day earlier than previously reported, forcing them to backtrack later.
At the morning briefing, Dr. Conley said the president was not currently receiving supplemental oxygen, but he repeatedly declined to say definitively whether Mr. Trump had ever been on oxygen. “None at this moment and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Dr. Conley said, seeming to suggest that there was a period on Friday at the White House when he was.
Two people close to the White House said in separate interviews with The New York Times that the president had trouble breathing on Friday and that his oxygen level dropped, prompting his doctors to give him supplemental oxygen while at the White House and then to transfer him to Walter Reed.
Dr. Conley also appeared to indicate that the president was first diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday rather than Thursday night, as Mr. Trump said when he disclosed the positive test on Twitter early Friday. While Dr. Conley described what he said was the president’s progress, he said Mr. Trump was “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” which would have meant midday on Wednesday.
Dr. Brian Garibaldi, another physician treating the president, also said that Mr. Trump had received an experimental antibody therapy “about 48 hours ago,” which would have been midday Thursday.
Just two hours later, the White House issued a statement it said was written by Dr. Conley, trying to clarify. “This morning while summarizing the president’s health, I incorrectly used the term ‘72 hours’ instead of ‘Day 3,’ and ‘48 hours’ instead of ‘Day 2,’” it said.
After the early briefing on Saturday, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, offered a far more sobering assessment of the president’s condition. Speaking to reporters outside Walter Reed, he described the president’s vital signs as “very concerning.”
“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” he said.
Mr. Meadows, whose comments were said to anger the president, later called into Fox News and said Mr. Trump had shown “unbelievable improvement.”
Mr. Trump was said by three administration officials and people close to him to indeed be in better shape, which added to the frustration among some White House advisers that Dr. Conley and Mr. Meadows had created such confusion.
In the evening, the president released a four-minute video meant to reassure the nation.
“I feel much better now,” he said. “We’re working hard to get me all the way back.”
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who for several days this week helped the president prepare for the debate, said he has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr. Christie announced his condition on Saturday, becoming the latest of several Trump associates to get a positive test result.
“I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues who have reached out to ask how I was feeling in the last day or two,” he said on Twitter.
In another tweet later on Saturday, Mr. Christie said he had checked himself in to the Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, N.J., on Saturday afternoon after consulting with his doctors.
“While I am feeling good and only have mild symptoms, due to my history of asthma we decided this is an important precautionary measure,” he said.
Mr. Christie’s statement came one day after Bill Stepien, President Trump’s campaign manager, tested positive for the virus.
Mr. Stepien, who was with Mr. Trump at the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday, is experiencing mild symptoms and is in isolation, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Stepien were among several advisers who huddled with Mr. Trump and others for debate preparation from Sunday to Tuesday.
That group also included Hope Hicks, one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers, and Kellyanne Conway, the former senior White House aide, both of whom have since tested positive.
No one wore masks during the preparation, Mr. Christie said.
Ms. Conway and Mr. Christie also attended a White House event on Sept. 26 announcing Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Others who attended and said they have tested positive include Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah; Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina; and the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame.
As President Trump remains hospitalized with Covid-19, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will cut short a trip to Asia this week, canceling stops in South Korea and Mongolia but continuing with a visit to Japan.
From Sunday through Tuesday he will be in Tokyo, where he will participate in a meeting of foreign ministers from Australia, India and Japan.
“Secretary Pompeo expects to be traveling to Asia again in October and will work to reschedule visits on that trip, that is now just a few weeks off,” a State Department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, said in a brief written statement Saturday. She did not specify why the schedule had been changed.
Mr. Pompeo earlier alluded to the possibility of curtailing his Asia visit because of the novel coronavirus infections in the president’s circle.
“If we can’t — if have to postpone a trip or cancel something, we’ll figure out how to get it back on the schedule,” he told reporters on Friday. “But I’m hopeful we can at least make sure we get to Asia for sure — some important things, but we’ll see. If the medical situation doesn’t permit it, we won’t do that. We won’t put anybody at risk.”
Mr. Pompeo said that he had tested negative on Friday and had last met with Mr. Trump on Sept. 15.
In Afghanistan, the numbers of women reported to have tested positive for the virus and to have died of Covid-19 are far below the numbers reported for men. Globally, men account for 53 percent of confirmed cases and 58 percent of deaths, according to the independent research group Global Health 50/50. But in Afghanistan, men account for 70 percent of cases and 74 percent of deaths — a discrepancy that experts say is most likely the result of women being shut out of the health care system and the public sphere.
Afghan women face obstacles within both their own households and the health care facilities themselves, said Suraya Dalil, who was Afghanistan’s public health minister from 2010 to 2014 and now leads special programs in public health at the World Health Organization. “Women have to be accompanied by somebody to go to the hospital,” she said, “so those decisions are often made by the men in a household, whether it’s the husband or the father or the son.”
And when women do get to health care facilities, they are expected to engage only with female doctors, she added. That becomes nearly impossible given the small number of female doctors.
Another explanation for the gap could be that Afghanistan’s labor force is male-dominated. A study published by the Center for Economic Policy Research in London found a positive correlation between women’s participation in the work force and Covid-19 death rates. In Afghanistan, women make up only about 30 percent of the work force.
All of this brings into sharp focus how much hangs in the balance for Afghan women as the government holds peace negotiations with the Taliban.
New York reopened classrooms for hundreds of thousands of students last week, after a tumultuous summer of last-minute changes. But the city’s ambitious plan to randomly test students for the coronavirus in each of its 1,800 public schools will probably be insufficient to catch outbreaks before they spread beyond a handful of students, according to new estimates of the spread of infections in city schools.
The city plans to test a random sample of 10 to 20 percent of people, including students and adults, in each city school once a month starting next week, already a herculean task.
But in order to reliably detect outbreaks and prevent them from spinning out of control, New York may need to test about half of the students at each school twice a month, researchers at New York University estimated. Experiences in Germany, Israel and other countries suggest that outbreaks could spread quickly despite the city’s relatively low rate of infection, the researchers said.
“The outbreaks could be quite large by the time they are detected by the monthly, 10-to-20-percent testing,” said Anna Bershteyn, the lead author of the new analysis and assistant professor of population health at N.Y.U.
The testing issue took on fresh urgency this week, when Mayor Bill de Blasio reported that the city’s average test positivity rate, which has been extremely low throughout the summer, had begun to tick up. If the virus continues to surge, the entire public school system could shutter.
The finding underscores how daunting testing will be in any district trying to reopen for some in-person classes, and particularly in New York, which is home to a system of 1.1 million students, about half of whom returned to classrooms this week.
Experts have warned that fall will be a uniquely challenging time for combating the pandemic, yet one of the most essential tools for stemming the spread of the coronavirus still has not been widely deployed in the United States and Europe.
While Western nations vowed repeatedly to develop “world-beating” contact tracing and testing operations at the onset of the pandemic, counting and monitoring people who have been exposed to the virus, and who may expose others, has rarely been effectively implemented.
Beholden to privacy rules, Western officials largely trusted people to hand over names to contact tracers. But that trust was not repaid, in large part because governments neglected services that were crucial to winning people’s cooperation: a fast and accurate testing system, and guarantees that people would be housed, fed and paid while they isolated.
Elected officials presented the system as a critical bridge between lockdown and a vaccine, allowing them to contain small outbreaks without shutting down large parts of society. But construction of that bridge has been rocky, at best.
“Public health leaders fell in love with the idea of contact tracing as an important tactic — and it is — but that’d be like if you’re going into war and were just talking about the tanks,” said Brian Castrucci, president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a public health charity in Maryland.
The West’s public health systems have not matched the success in parts of East Asia where the fear of epidemics became more ingrained after SARS appeared in 2002 and MERS was identified in 2012.
In England, people are neither handing over many contacts — about five, on average — nor following the rules.
“It suggests there is some degree of skepticism in the population to engagement,” said Professor Christophe Fraser of the University of Oxford, an adviser to the British government’s tracing program, referring to the proportion of known cases — a fifth — who handed over no other names.
In other global developments:
The Solomon Islands reported its first coronavirus case on Saturday, the local news media reported. The remote South Pacific nation had been one of few countries with no confirmed infections. But Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in an address to the nation that a student had tested positive after arriving in Honiara, the capital, on a repatriation flight from the Philippines. He said that the student was asymptomatic and that the Health Ministry was tracing his contacts.
Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his handling of the pandemic protested across the country on Saturday night, despite new restrictions on public assembly, the Agence France-Presse reported. In Tel Aviv, the capital, demonstrators staged several simultaneous marches in different parts of the city, an A.F.P. photographer there said. The police did not give an estimate on the number of protesters. In Jerusalem, the Israeli news media estimated that about 200 people were protesting outside Mr. Netanyahu’s official residence, a marked contrast with the thousands who were there a week earlier. Parliament on Wednesday approved a law restricting demonstrations as part of a coronavirus-related state of emergency, which critics say is aimed at silencing protests against Mr. Netanyahu.
More than 100,000 people in India have died from the coronavirus, the government said on Saturday, even as officials plan to lift more restrictions in hopes of reviving the crippled economy. India’s health ministry reported 1,069 new Covid-19 deaths, bringing the official total to 100,842, though experts say the true toll is probably much higher. Until Saturday, only the United States and Brazil had reported more than 100,000 deaths from the virus. India’s death and infection rates have climbed in recent months, with September alone accounting for more than 40 percent of its cases and about a third of its deaths. The numbers have fallen somewhat since mid-September but remain high.
President Xi Jinping of China on Saturday sent a message to President Trump wishing him and the first lady a speedy recovery. In the message to Mr. Trump, Mr. Xi said that he and his wife, Peng Liyuan, “express sympathy and hope you get better soon,” according to a report in The Global Times, a Chinese news outlet controlled by the ruling Communist Party. The message from the Chinese leader comes as the two men have found themselves increasingly at odds as the coronavirus spread around the world and widened a schism between the two superpowers.
Nearly 10,000 doctors took part in a strike in Peru last week to demand more support from the government as they respond to one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, a union leader said. It was the latest in a series of protests by public health workers who have endured months of crises at the country’s underfunded hospitals. The nationwide strike forced Peru’s second-biggest health care provider, the state-run EsSalud, to suspend consultations and scheduled surgeries on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Dr. Teodoro Quiñones, the secretary general of EsSalud’s doctors’ union. Included in the doctors’ demands was the distribution of a $200 monthly cash bonus that the government promised front-line medical workers months ago.
The N.F.L. postponed a highly anticipated game scheduled for Sunday between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs until Monday or Tuesday after positive coronavirus tests on both teams. According to multiple reports, Cam Newton, the Patriots quarterback, was among those who tested positive.
The Patriots confirmed a positive test, but did not identify the player. In a statement released Saturday, the team said the player entered isolation and that subsequent testing done on players and staff members who had been in contact with him had come back negative.
The new positive tests come after the N.F.L. spent much of the week scrambling to address an outbreak of positive tests among the Tennessee Titans. That team reported 11 positive tests among players and team personnel, which forced the league to push its scheduled Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers back to Oct. 25, Week 7 of the football calendar.
In a statement, the league said that the Patriots and the Chiefs were consulting with infectious disease experts and working closely with the N.F.L. and the players’ association “to evaluate multiple close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments.”