In a press conference before President Trump’s scheduled discharge from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he has spent three days being treated for Covid-19, his medical team shared some information about his health while still evading certain specific questions from the media.
Although Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, conceded that Trump “may not be entirely out of the woods yet,” he said that the president’s “clinical status supports his return home, where he’ll be surrounded by world-class medical care 24/7.”
“Over the past 24 hours, the president has continued to improve. He’s met or exceeded all standard hospital discharge criteria,” Conley said.
Another of the president’s doctors, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, stated that Trump will receive his fourth dose of anti-viral medication Remdesivir before returning to the White House this evening. He will also continue taking dexamethasone, a steroid often used in Covid-19 treatments.
But while doctors openly discussed some details about the president’s health and medications, Conley cited HIPAA — a patient privacy act — as the reason he did not disclose certain information. But Conley did not explain how HIPAA would prevent him from sharing some details of Trump’s medical status and not others. He only said, “There are HIPAA rules and regulations that restrict me in sharing certain things for his safety and his own health and reasons.”
By blaming HIPAA, Conley is essentially saying that Trump has not authorized him to release certain details about his health, because Trump can easily voluntarily revoke HIPAA protections and allow his doctor to share his medical information with the public. That means we aren’t getting the full picture of the president’s medical status, which could be because Trump is only allowing his doctors to disclose positive news about his health.
At the press conference, Conley refused to discuss the results of the president’s lung scans or whether he has pneumonia. “We’ve done routine standard imaging,” Conley said, “I’m just not at liberty to discuss.”
When asked if the president was on blood thinners, Conley said, “He is on a routine regimen of Covid therapy. I’m not going to go into specifics as to what [medications] he is on and not on,” despite another doctor telling the press minutes earlier that he was on at least two medications, Remdesivir and dexamethasone.
Conley also continued to avoid disclosing when the president last tested negative for coronavirus before he tested positive last week, saying, “I don’t want to go backwards.” Of course, going “backwards” is exactly what professionals should do when trying to contact trace an infectious disease.
And when reporters also asked about how the president will isolate inside the White House once he is discharged and whether he will stay confined to the residence, Conley would only say, “We will do whatever it takes for the president to safely conduct business wherever it is he needs to do it within the residence or the White House.”
But some medical experts say it is not yet safe to let the president return to the White House — where more and more people are testing positive for the virus, including two White House residence staff members who work in housekeeping. And it’s risky for Trump to be discharged because, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta noted on CNN, steroids like the ones the president is taking can often “mask” symptoms.
“I’ve prescribed a lot of steroids,” he said, “But it’s a mask. It reduces the inflammation… but at the same time, the viral load is still there and needs to be treated. As you wean the steroids, the viral load may start to increase again. And that’s why you want him in the hospital.”
And as Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease expert, told the New York Times, “I’m worried about in two days he might suddenly crash and then on an emergency basis he would have to be rushed back.”
But the president has his image to consider. And probably a rally to hold. So why let public safety and health — even his own — get in the way of that?