‘I’m starting to feel good,’ Donald Trump says in video after Covid-19 hospitalisation

The US president thanked medical workers in a brief video message shared on social media from Walter Reed medical centre

US President Donald Trump said he is starting to feel better and praised the work of medics at Walter Reed medical centre where he is being treated after testing positive for coronavirus.

After Mr Trump’s doctor and White House officials gave mixed messages about his health earlier on Saturday, the president tweeted a short video message in which he said he was starting to feel good and wanted to return to campaigning in the ongoing presidential race.

“I want to begin by thanking all of the incredible medical professionals, the doctors, the nurses, everybody at Walter Reed medical centre,” he said.

“I came here wasn't feeling so well. I feel much better. I'm starting to feel good. You don't know over the next period of a few days, I guess that's the real test.”

Mr Trump was moved to the military hospital for treatment on Friday after being diagnosed with Covid-19, as his administration and election campaign scrambled to adjust to an extraordinary twist in his turbulent presidency.

Doctors urged the move so Mr Trump, 74, could get immediate care if needed, White House officials said.

The president was seen boarding the presidential helicopter Marine One at the White House on Friday evening.

In the video shared on Twitter, he also confirmed that Melania Trump, the first lady, who was also diagnosed with Covid-19 but was not taken to hospital, was doing well.

There had earlier been conflicting remarks from the White House over the state of the president’s health, with a senior official saying Mr Trump's vital signs were very concerning even as doctors talked of a patient recovering well from Covid-19.

The team of doctors said on Saturday morning that Mr Trump's condition was improving and that he was already talking about returning to the White House. One said Mr Trump had told them "I feel like I could walk out of here today".

Within minutes, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a less rosy assessment.

"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. We're still not on a clear path to a full recovery," Mr Meadows said.

Before the release of the video message, White House doctor Sean Conley told a morning briefing the president was "doing very well".

Col Sean N Dooley, a member of the medical team overseeing Mr Trump's care, said the president was not on oxygen and was not having difficulty breathing or walking around.

"We are monitoring him very closely for any evidence of complications from either the coronavirus illness or the therapies that we are prescribing to make him better," Dr Dooley said. "He is in exceptionally good spirits."

White House officials said Mr Trump would stay at the hospital for the next few days as a precautionary measure.

On Friday, the president posted an earlier video to Twitter thanking people for their support, saying that he thought he was "doing very well".

Mr Trump did not transfer power to Vice President Mike Pence as other presidents have sometimes done while undergoing medical treatment, according to a White House official.

The latest turn came after Dr Conley wrote that the president "remains fatigued but in good spirits".

Dr Conley said the president had been given Regeneron's experimental polyclonal antibody cocktail, as well as zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin.

Mr Trump, who has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, wrote on Twitter earlier on Friday that he and Mrs Trump were going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and severely damaged the US economy.

Mr Trump did not participate in the only event on his schedule for Friday, a phone call with elderly citizens on Covid-19, according to US broadcasters CNN and MSNBC.

The White House cleared Mr Trump's packed schedule after he announced his positive test result, keeping only the call with vulnerable seniors on support for Covid-19 on the calendar.

The call would go forward, but MSNBC reported that Mr Pence would take Mr Trump's place.

Besides Hope Hicks, one of Mr Trump's closest confidantes, Former White House top aide Kellyanne Conway announced late on Friday she had tested positive with mild symptoms.

Campaign manager Bill Stepien also tested positive.

But so far, no one else in the president's inner circle has been confirmed to have the virus. His 14-year-old son Barron tested negative.

Mr Pence and his wife both tested negative on Friday, an aide said.

Mr Trump's election rival Joe Biden and his wife Jill were also found not to have the virus.

Mr Biden pulled ads attacking the president off the air, but otherwise continued his campaign.

At a union hall in Grand Rapids, Mr Biden said he was praying for his rival's recovery. However, he also implicitly criticised Mr Trump, who rarely wears a mask in public and has held huge campaign rallies with little social distancing.

"Be patriotic," Mr Biden said. "It's not about being a tough guy. It's about doing your part."

The president is at a higher risk because of his age and weight. He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is travelling to Croatia, said: "We are praying for the president and first lady that they'll have a speedy recovery."

Mr Trump's positive test result came hours after he revealed on Thursday night that Ms Hicks had contracted the virus and that he and the first lady planned to quarantine.

"She did test positive. I just heard about this. She tested positive," he told Fox News.

"She's a hard worker. Lots of masks, she wears masks a lot but she tested positive. Then I just went out with a test. I'll see – you know, because we spent a lot of time – and the first lady just went out with a test also."

Soon after, he tweeted: "In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!"

Ms Hicks travelled with Mr Trump on Air Force One on Tuesday for the first presidential debate with Mr Biden. She was also with him on the Marine One helicopter on Wednesday when he flew back to the White House after a rally in Minnesota.

US media, citing sources, said Ms Hicks was isolated on the journey back from Minnesota after showing mild symptoms and tested positive on Thursday morning.

 

Markets slump

Oil was caught up in a broad downward move in financial markets after Mr Trump's announcement.

Futures in New York fell towards $37 a barrel on Friday after slumping 3.7 per cent on Thursday.

Asian stocks fell, as did European and US equity futures, while the dollar swung wildly.

Mr Trump's diagnosis comes a month from the November 3 election with the president trailing his Democratic challenger in voter surveys. He was scheduled to address a campaign rally in Florida and a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Friday.

Mr Trump has said that the US, with more than 7 million cases so far, had put the worst of the pandemic behind it. He rarely wears a mask, noting that he receives frequent testing.

Polls show most Americans disapprove of Mr Trump's handling of the pandemic, a potentially decisive issue in the election. Supporters have voiced concerns about the president's backing in swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that Mr Biden aims to reclaim after Mr Trump won them in 2016.

Asked about Ms Hicks before Mr Trump's comments, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: "The president takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously".

Mr Deere said the White House takes care to follow procedures "for limiting Covid-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible".

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