The Times, which broke the story after speaking with multiple anonymous sources familiar with Trump’s condition, said the then-president had “extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point” along with a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by COVID-19.
Trump was found to have lung infiltrates, the Times reported, a sign of an acute case of the disease. Infiltrates occur when the lungs are inflamed and contain fluid or bacteria, among other substances, and can be spotted on X-rays.
Trump’s blood oxygen level also dipped below the low 90s and into the 80s, according to the report — another sign his bout was severe.
CNN, through an anonymous source, corroborated the discussions about putting Trump on a ventilator before he was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he spent three nights receiving round-the-clock care in early October.
Multiple reports, including by CNN, said Trump had trouble breathing and had received supplemental oxygen at one point on Oct. 2, the same day he was flown from the White House to Walter Reed.
During his time in hospital, Trump’s medical team downplayed and gave conflicting information about his condition.
The former president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, answered repeated questions on whether Trump was on oxygen by saying he wasn’t on oxygen “right now.” He said Trump wasn’t on supplemental oxygen “yesterday and today,” but wouldn’t answer if Trump had ever received it since testing positive for the virus.
Conley also told reporters while Trump was in hospital that X-rays and CT scans had been performed, but that they only showed “expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern” — sidestepping questions on whether the scans detected signs of pneumonia or tissue damage.
Doctors finally revealed near the end of Trump’s hospital stay that his blood oxygen had dropped twice, but wouldn’t say when those incidents occurred.
Conley ultimately admitted he was trying to present a rosy picture of Trump’s health and “reflect the upbeat nature of the team,” but that it “wasn’t necessarily true” he was trying to hide anything about the then-president’s condition.
After one briefing by Conley and the rest of Trump’s doctors, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff at the time, told reporters privately that Trump’s vitals had been “very concerning” and that Trump was “still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
Trump was given multiple experimental treatments and drugs that were not available to the general population at the time, including the steroid drug dexamethasone and an antibody cocktail made by the biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
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White House physicians said the dexamethasone was administered “in response to transient low oxygen levels,” which health experts told Global News was an indication that Trump’s case was severe.
Trump ultimately returned to the White House on Oct. 5, where he promptly removed the mask he wore on the Marine One helicopter that brought him home. He also released a video telling the American people not to worry about COVID-19 — a message health experts called “appalling” given Trump’s battle with the disease.
A person close to Trump denied to the Times that Trump had ever been seriously ill, a position Trump upheld throughout the rest of the fall presidential campaign.
The campaign proved to partially be a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which had killed over 200,000 Americans by the time Trump tested positive.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll continues to lead the world, now standing at over 475,000 as of Thursday evening.
— With files from the Associated Press