Donald Trump's doctors finally admitted yesterday that his oxygen levels dropped for two days running and that he is taking a steroid treatment to fight Covid-19. They also admitted to giving an "upbeat" assessment of his health on Saturday.
Dr Sean Conley, the US president's physician, said Mr Trump's health had improved yesterday and he could be discharged as early as today.
Dr Conley admitted giving an overly rosy picture of Mr Trump's health in a Saturday briefing, where he did not admit the president had received supplemental oxygen.
Mr Trump was said to have been out of bed and moving unaided in the presidential suite in Walter Reed Medical Centre, where he is being treated for Covid-19 after a positive test on Thursday, and that his heart, kidney and liver appeared to be normal.
However, doctors disclosed that Mr Trump was given dexamethasone on Saturday, a steroid treatment that the World Health Organisation recommends is used only for patients with "severe and critical Covid-19".
The US National Institutes of Health has issued similar guidance.
Dr Conley triggered fresh confusion by saying there were "some expected findings" on Mr Trump's lungs after tests, but declined to give more clarity despite repeated questions from reporters, save for saying that the president performed well on breathing tests. He also declined to say exactly how low Mr Trump's blood oxygen levels had dropped, both on Friday - when the president was given supplemental oxygen - and on Saturday, when the steroid treatment was first used.
The responses meant there remained a lack of clarity yesterday about the exact state of Mr Trump's health as he battled the illness, even as doctors gave an upbeat portrayal and said he could be discharged today.
Dr Brian Garibaldi, another doctor treating Mr Trump, told the briefing: "Today he feels well. He's been up and around. If he continues to look and feel as well as he does today, our hope is that we can plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House where he can continue his treatment course."
Yesterday, Mr Trump briefly left hospital in a car to wave to supporters.
The president's journey came shortly after he promised his supporters "a surprise" in a video posted on Twitter.
"It's been a very interesting journey," Mr Trump said in the video. "I learned a lot about Covid. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the let's-read-the-books school. And I get it, and I understand it. And it's a very interesting thing."
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump's doctor said the president's blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he "has continued to improve" since then.
The update from Dr Sean Conley added a new layer of confusion to the president's fight with Covid-19 as he also suggested Mr Trump could be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre as early as Monday.
Mr Trump's doctors, speaking on the steps of the military hospital where he was being treated for a third consecutive day, refused to disclose the specific timing of the president's dip in oxygen or whether lung scans showed any damage.
Dr Conley acknowledged he was trying to downplay the severity of the president's condition the day before.
"I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had. Didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction," Dr Conley said. "And in doing so, came off like we're trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true. The fact of the matter is that he's doing really well."
Dr Conley said the president had a "high fever" and a blood oxygen level below 94pc on Friday and during "another episode" on Saturday. He was evasive when asked whether Mr Trump's level had dropped below 90pc: "We don't have any recordings here on that."
The level currently stands at 98pc, Mr Trump's medical team said.
Mr Trump offered his own assessment of his status the night before in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to "be back soon".
And he was back on social media early Sunday morning, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters, most not wearing masks, gathered outside the medical centre.
The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president's health and the nation's leadership on the line.
Yesterday's briefing revealed that the state of his health on Friday and Saturday was much more concerning than White House doctors and officials briefed at the time, adding to critics' claims of a "credibility gap" in their contemporary public statements. (© Daily Telegraph, London)