Donald Trump to leave hospital, tells Americans not to be afraid of COVID-19

Donald Trump has announced he is leaving the Walter Reed Medical Centre later on Tuesday morning (NZT).

"I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!" the US President tweeted on Tuesday morning.

In an update on Tuesday morning, Trump's physician Dr Sean Conley said that the President's status has improved over the last 24 hours and he has met or exceeded all standard hospital discharge criteria. He has completed a third dose of intravenous antiviral drug Remdesivir and will soon have a fourth.

Dr Conley said Trump hasn't had a fever for 72 hours and his oxygen levels are normal.

"Though he may not entirely be out of the woods yet, the team and I agree all of our evaluations, and most importantly his clinical status, support the President's safe return home, where he will be surrounded by worldclass medical care 24/7."

He was grateful to the medical staff at the Walter Reed Medical Centre.

Dr Conley said there was nothing currently happening in the medical centre that can't be done at the White House.

The doctor said Trump had been a "phenomenal patient" and "he's back".

He wouldn't comment on Trump's tweet that people shouldn't "be afraid of COVID" and also repeatedly refused to say when the President's last negative test was.

Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, the illness which has killed more than 1 million globally, on Friday. He was hospitalised on Saturday, which the White House said was just a precaution. However, sources within the White House told media that the President was very fatigued and having trouble breathing.

Over the recent days, the US President has appeared in several videos, telling his followers he was well and working. He ventured out of the medical centre on Monday in a vehicle to wave to his followers.

In an update on Sunday (NZT), Trump's physician said the President had completed a second dose of Remdesivir without complication. He had also been treated with the steroid dexamethasone.

"He remains fever-free and off supplemental oxygen with a saturation level between 96 and 98 percent all day. He spent most of the afternoon conducting business and has been up and moving about the medical suite without difficulty," the update from Dr Conley said.

Trump did have a high fever before leaving for the Walter Reed Medical Centre on Saturday and had been given supplemental oxygen after his blood oxygen levels dropped. 

Trump's infection has thrown the November 3 US election into chaos, with questions about how Trump will campaign over the coming weeks and if he can take part in next week's debate with Democrat Joe Biden. Biden on Tuesday said he was willing to take part in the debate if experts said it was safe. 

Normally, people with COVID-19 need to isolate for at least 14 days.

Trump's tweet comes after Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany became the latest White House figure to test positive for the virus. She said on Tuesday morning that she would begin quarantining and work remotely.

McEnany, a well-known figure at the forefront of the White House's often combative dealings with the media, held a briefing for reporters on Thursday in which she did not wear a face mask.

Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, who work in the White House's press office, also have tested positive, a source confirmed to Reuters.

"These people think this is all a game. Everyone in that White House who was exposed to Hope Hicks and the president should have begun quarantine last week. They don't care about the rules, which is why we have 200,000 dead. Vote them all out," Democratic Senator Chris Murphy tweeted.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday showed the Republican Trump trailing Biden, 77, nationally by 10 percentage points. About 65 percent of Americans said Trump would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously.

Trump has repeatedly flouted social-distancing guidelines meant to curb its spread. He also mocked former Vice President Biden at last Tuesday's debate for wearing a mask at events, even when he is far from other people.

Biden has tested negative for the disease several times since sharing the stage with Trump last week.

The Democratic White House hopeful was due to resume in-person campaigning on Monday in Florida, where polls showed a tight race in a crucial election battleground.

A return to the White House might help Trump project a sense of normalcy in his bid to win re-election on November 3. Before falling ill, he had tried to pivot the campaign toward the US economic recovery and the upcoming confirmation hearings for his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

But the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the White House as well as Congress - three Republican senators have tested positive for the virus in the last week - threatens to draw further attention to Trump's pandemic response.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife again tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, an administration official said. Trump's chief of staff, Meadows, tested negative on Monday, an administration official said.

Pence is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who both work at the White House, also tested negative for the virus, Ivanka Trump's spokeswoman said. The president's wife, Melania, tested positive last week.

Trump is also under fire for a statement that he met with soldiers and first responders at the hospital in Bethesda, for going on a drive-by to greet supporters outside the facility on Sunday and for traveling to a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, last Thursday. Critics said those actions potentially exposed even more people to the virus.

Addressing concerns on Tuesday, Dr Conley said all staff around the President wear full PPE.

Major US stock markets were trading higher on Monday amid hints of Trump's potential release and signs of progress with a new fiscal stimulus bill in Congress. Wall Street's main indexes slumped on Friday after Trump's COVID-19 announcement.

But doctors not involved in Trump's treatment said optimism about the president's condition might be misplaced. As an overweight, elderly man, Trump is in a category of people who are more likely to develop severe complications or die from the disease.

Newshub / Reuters