President Donald Trump broke his quarantine at Walter Reed Medical Center for a drive-by visit with supporters gathered outside the hospital late Sunday afternoon. Trump, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday and is being treated for symptoms of COVID-19, sat in the back of an SUV while he was driven around to wave at his fans. The move was quickly criticized online by medical experts, who were shocked by the scene.
Before the "surprise" visit, Trump teased his plans in a new video published on his Twitter page. "We're going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street, and they've been out there for a long time and they've got Trump flags and they love our country," Trump said in the clip. The president said his experience with the virus was a "very interesting journey" and he "learned a lot" about it since he was hospitalized on Friday. "I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school," Trump said of the hospital. "This isn't the, 'let's read the book school.'"
Trump drives by the press and supporters outside Walter Reed hospital. pic.twitter.com/3phtKthqTH— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) October 4, 2020
"I really appreciate all of the fans and supporters outside of the hospital," Trump also tweeted before his drive-by trip. "The fact is, they really love our Country and are seeing how we are MAKING IT GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!" Trump returned to the hospital after waving to supporters. It appeared that at least two other people, possibly Secret Service agents, were in the car with the president, reports NPR.
After Trump's trip, doctors almost universally called it a reckless move. "Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die," Dr. John Phillips, of George Washington University and an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted. “For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
Phillips went on to note that the president's SUV is "not only bulletproof but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."
Trump's trip came just hours after his doctors gave an update on his condition. His physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said Trump could be discharged as soon as Monday, depending on his condition. He confirmed Trump had a high fever and saw his oxygen levels fall Friday morning before he was hospitalized. Trump has "continued to improve" since Saturday, he said.
According to Conley, Trump believed he did not need supplemental oxygen on Friday, but Conley disagreed. "He was not short of breath; he was tired, had the fever, and that was about it," Conley said. "After about a minute on only 2 liters, his saturation levels were back over 95%. He stayed on that for about an hour." On Saturday, his oxygen levels dropped to 93%. When asked if Trump needed supplemental oxygen at that point, Conley said he would have to "check with the nursing staff."