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Doctors: Trump improving, may return to White House today

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Conflicting accounts by doctors and officials over US President's condition earlier led to widespread confusion

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump's condition is improving as he is being treated for Covid-19 at a military hospital, and he could return to the White House as early as today, where his treatment would continue, the doctors leading his treatment said yesterday.

Doctors provided Mr Trump supplemental oxygen twice during his battle with the lung disease on Thursday and Friday, and have also given him dexamethasone, they told reporters the day after a series of contradictory messages from the White House caused widespread confusion about Mr Trump's condition.

Dexamethasone is shown in studies to improve survival for patients hospitalised with critical Covid-19 who need extra oxygen.

But it should not be given in mild cases since it can limit the body's own ability to combat the virus, according to guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"The fact of the matter is that he's doing really well," Mr Trump's physician, Dr Sean P. Conley, told reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, where Mr Trump has been receiving treatment since Friday.

The doctors said Mr Trump has not run a fever since Friday and that his liver and kidney function remained normal after the second dose in a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug that has been shown to shorten hospital stays.

Dr Brian Garibaldi said Mr Trump was given dexamethasone in response to "transient low oxygen levels".

"He received his first dose of that yesterday and our plan is to continue that for the time being," Dr Garibaldi said.

Mr Trump is also being given an experimental treatment, Regeneron's REGN-COV2, as well as zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, his doctors have said.

Mr Trump, looking tired and wearing a jacket and open-necked shirt, released a four-minute video on Saturday in which he said: "Over the next period of a few days, I guess that's the real test, so we'll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days."

His illness has upended the campaign ahead of the November presidential election and cast a spotlight on his handling of the pandemic.

The Republican President is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Sunday found Mr Biden had opened a 10-point lead over Mr Trump nationally, slightly wider than it has been for the past two months.

Some 65 per cent of Americans said Mr Trump likely would not have been infected had he taken the virus more seriously - a view that half of registered Republicans polled supported.

Some 55 per cent said they did not believe Mr Trump had been telling the truth about the virus.

He has repeatedly played down the threat of the pandemic, even as it has killed more than 208,000 Americans and hammered the US economy.

Differing assessments of Mr Trump's health from administration officials on Saturday left it unclear how ill he had become since he tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday night.

A White House team of doctors said on Saturday morning his condition was improving and he was talking about returning to the White House.

Within minutes, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a less rosy assessment, saying, "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, whose initial comments were delivered on condition that he not be identified, altered his tone hours later, saying Mr Trump was doing "very well" and that "doctors are very pleased with his vital signs."

He did not clarify the discrepancy in his comments.

A Trump adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr Trump was not happy with Mr Meadows' initial remarks.

However in an interview with Fox News broadcast on Saturday night, Mr Meadows revealed Mr Trump's condition on Friday was far worse than officials had made public, saying doctors recommended the President go to the hospital after seeing he had a fever and his blood oxygen level had dropped rapidly.

Commenting on the contradictory assessments, Dr Conley told reporters yesterday: "I was trying to reflect an upbeat attitude of the team and the President about the course his illness has had.

"I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction and in doing so, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which isn't necessarily true."

Professor Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Centre for Politics, said: "Today's spectacle - doctors saying one thing, White House sources saying another thing, and both later amending their statements - only reinforces the credibility problems of this administration." - REUTERS