Former President Donald Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped to a low of 86 before he was hospitalized for Covid-19 last fall, according to a New York Times report on former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ forthcoming book. That contradicts what his physician said at the time.
Although Trump has long denied that White House medical officials painted a rosier picture of his condition than was actually the case, Meadows wrote in The Chief’s Chief that the former president’s illness was more severe than the administration admitted. The book seems to confirm some details reported by The Times in February — that Trump’s oxygen dropped “into the 80s” and that he was initially reluctant to go to the hospital. Trump at the time denied that the story was true.
Meadows’ account also seems to conflict with what his medical team leader, Dr. Sean P. Conley, told reporters outside the hospital. Conley said that Trump’s oxygen had dropped to 93 percent, but denied that it had fallen into the “low 80s.”
Before his oxygen fell to 86, Trump was already feeling fatigued. “I’ve lost so much strength. The muscles are just not responding,” Trump said according to Meadows.
The morning on the day Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Meadows said that Conley “pulled me aside and delivered some bad news.” “Although the president’s condition had improved slightly overnight, his oxygen levels had now dipped down to about 86 percent and could be trending lower, a dangerously low level for someone his age,” Meadows wrote.
While doctors “had decided to put the president on oxygen in the residence and hope for the best,” it soon became clear that he would need hospitalization. So the medical team asked Meadows to convince the president to go. “I worried that the notion of him going to the hospital, in his mind, would seem like an act of capitulation,” Meadows wrote. “I was right.”
When Meadows went to speak to Trump about going to the hospital, he was in bed in the White House residence, clad in a t-shirt. “It was the first time I had seen him in anything other than a golf shirt or a suit jacket,” the former chief of staff wrote, adding that “his hair was a mess from the hours he’d spent getting Regeneron in bed.” Regeneron is a Covid antibody therapy.
Trump at first hesitated to go, insisting to Meadows he would be fine. But Meadows persisted. “It’s better that you walk out of here today under your own strength, your own power, than for me to have to carry you out on a gurney in two days,” he recalled telling the president, appealing to Trump’s giant ego.
Meadows’ book has revealed new details about Trump’s Covid diagnosis, including a previously unreported positive test before a debate against then-candidate Joe Biden. That Trump went ahead with public events, including the debate, while he likely had the virus reveals how recklessly he endangered scores of people. According to a Washington Post analysis, Trump came into contact with more than 500 individuals in the seven days between his first positive test and hospitalization.