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Trump leaves hospital, downplays virus

October 6, 2020

Donald Trump is back at the White House, but his doctors have cautioned that he is "not entirely out of the woods." The president had been in the hospital since Friday after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

US President Donald Trump removes his mask after returning to the White House following treatment for COVID-19
Image: Erin Scott/Reuters

US President Donald Trump was released from Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday evening following four days of emergency treatment for COVID-19.

A mask-wearing Trump emerged from the front doors of the hospital, flashing a thumbs-up at reporters as he boarded Marine One for a short helicopter ride back to the White House — which he left on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19 and falling ill.

Upon arrival at the White House, Trump quickly removed his mask for a photo op with photographers and saluted. The president remained maskless as staffers approached to greet him.

Read more: White House COVID outbreak widens, as cases mount

In a video statement recorded on the White House balcony, Trump downplayed the effects of the virus and told Americans to "get out there."

"Don't let it [coronavirus] dominate. Don't let it take over your lives," he said.

Trump, who is still infected with the virus and likely contagious,  plans on continuing his treatment for the illness at the White House.

Earlier Monday, the president announced he would be leaving the military hospital, writing in a series of Tweets that he was "feeling really good" and that he "will be back on the campaign trail soon."

The virus has so far killed more than 210,000 Americans and infected over 7.4 million people, with Trump facing criticism for his pandemic response.

Trump leaves the hospital
Trump wore his mask while leaving Walter Reed Medical Center, but removed it upon returning to the White HouseImage: Saul Loeb/AFP

Biden: 'Masks matter'

Trump's Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, fired back at the president's decision to remove his mask and downplay the severity of the virus.

"I would hope that the president, having gone through what he went through — and I'm glad he seems to be coming along pretty well — would communicate the right lesson to the American people: masks matter," Biden said during an NBC News town hall event in Miami.

"This is a national emergency. And so the president should take responsibility … to lay out basic guidelines and that science matters," he said.

After facing off with Trump in the first presidential debate last Tuesday, Biden has since tested negative for COVID-19.

Not yet 'out of the woods'

Giving an update on Trump's health on Monday prior to his release, Dr. Sean Conley, the president's physician, said the president "may not entirely be out of the woods yet," but said doctors agreed "that all our evaluations and, most importantly, his clinical status support the president's safe return home, where he'll be surrounded by world-class medical care."

Reuters news agency quoted Trump's medical team as saying that the president had met or exceeded all discharge criteria. Doctors also said Trump will get fifth dose of remdesivir at the White House on Tuesday. He hasn't had a fever for 72 hours and his oxygen levels were normal, they added.

Trump's condition improved overnight from Sunday night to Monday morning, according to doctors.

Doctors treating Trump said they were unsure when he'll no longer be contagious for the virus or when he'd be able to travel again. Trump is being treated with a steroid, dexmethasone, which is normally used only in the most severe cases.

Mandatory quarantine

Trump's move to immediately remove his mask upon arrival at the White House sparked immediate concerns about whether the president will isolate himself.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms can be contagious for at least 10 days and should remain in isolation.

The president's White House return raises questions about how the administration will protect other officials from the virus. It's unclear how many people at the White House have already been infected with the disease.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced Monday morning she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was entering quarantine.

Questions remain concerning the actual timeline of Trump's positive test result and when he first showed symptoms.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows previously defended a controversial decision for the president to leave his hospital suite on Sunday to drive by supporters outside the medical facility. Dr. James Phillips, a medic at the facility, described the move as "insanity."

With less than a month to go until election day, Trump is eager to keep campaigning and stay in the public eye. Monday also saw a return to regular Twitter use for the president.

kbd, shs, ed/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)