Donald Trump’s “surprise” drive-by stunt to wave at supporters outside the hospital where he is being treated for Covid-19 has been branded “insanity” by a doctor at the facility where he is being treated.
Dr James Phillips said the president had put the lives of Secret Service agents at risk, after the 74-year-old sat for an extended period of time in a hermetically-sealed vehicle with two agents, all for a piece of “political theatre”.
Trump was captured on video waving from the back seat of a black SUV Sunday evening, wearing a mask, as crowds cheered and waved American flags and pro-Trump banners outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland.
Two people could be seen in the vehicle’s front seats.
Patients who test positive for Covid-19 are generally required to quarantine for 14 days, the typical incubation period for the coronavirus to avoid infecting others and the disease has killed more than 200,000 Americans.
In two posts on Twitter, Dr Phillips wrote: “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days.
“That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of Covid-19 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.”
Shortly before the brief ride, Trump posted a video on Twitter saying he would “pay a little surprise to the some of the great patriots we have out on the street”.
White House spokesman Judd Deere described the drive as a “short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters” and said Trump quickly returned to his hospital suite.
Deere said “appropriate precautions were taken” before the ride to protect the President and those supporting him, Reuters reports. “The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do,” he added.
Earlier on Sunday, 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 Trump could be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre as early as Monday.
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 94% on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday. He was evasive when asked whether Trump’s level had dropped below 90%: “We don’t have any recordings here on that.”