President Trump’s vital signs on Saturday were concerning as doctors mounted an aggressive effort to treat him and he was not out of danger, a person close to the situation said, even as the coronavirus infected an ever widening swath of the president’s aides and allies.
While doctors maintained during a televised briefing that Mr. Trump was “doing very well” after a night at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, they refused to provide critical details and left open the impression that the president was known to be sick a day earlier than previously reported.
Shortly after the upbeat briefing by the doctors, a person familiar with the president’s health gave a more sober assessment to reporters at Walter Reed on the condition of anonymity. “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” this person said. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
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 decide to transfer him to Walter Reed where he could be monitored with better equipment and treated more rapidly in case of trouble.
Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, told reporters outside Walter Reed that the president was not currently on supplemental oxygen on Saturday but repeatedly declined to say definitively whether he had ever been on oxygen. “None at this moment and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” he said, seeming to suggest that there was a period on Friday when he was.
Dr. Conley likewise seemed to suggest that the president was first diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday rather than Thursday night when Mr. Trump disclosed that he had tested positive on Twitter. While describing what he said was the president’s progress, he said Mr. Trump was “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” which would mean midday on Wednesday.
Asked about that, Dr. Conley did not clarify but said that on Thursday afternoon “we repeated testing and, given clinical indications, had a little bit more concern.” Late that night, he said “we got the PCR confirmation that he was” positive. Mr. Trump attended campaign events on both Wednesday night and Thursday, which would be after the point 72 hours earlier.
The confusion came from a briefing where Dr. Conley and his team offered a relentlessly positive assessment of Mr. Trump’s condition. “This morning the president is doing very well,” Dr. Conley said. “At this time, the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made.”
The doctors said Mr. Trump had been free of fever for 24 hours and had blood pressure and heart rates that were normal for him. Asked why he moved Mr. Trump to the hospital, Dr. Conley said, “Because he’s the president of the United States.”
Dr. Sean N. Dooley, another physician treating the president, said Mr. Trump was feeling optimistic. “He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” Dr. Dooley said. He added that the president told his doctors, “I feel like I could walk out of here today.”