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Trump says he is doing well but next couple of days the 'real test'

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  • US election 2020
media captionPresident Donald Trump: "We'll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days"

US President Donald Trump says he is doing well but that the next few days will be the "real test".

He posted a video on Twitter ahead of a second night in hospital, where he is being treated for Covid-19.

The president's physician said late on Saturday Mr Trump had made "substantial progress" but was "not out of the woods yet".

Saturday had been marked by a flurry of apparently contradictory remarks about the president's condition.

Shortly after the medical team gave a generally upbeat update, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the president's condition had been "very concerning".

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A number of people around the president have tested positive, including First Lady Melania Trump. Many of them had attended a crowded White House event last weekend on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court judge. It is being scrutinised as a possible "super-spreader event".

The president's positive Covid-19 diagnosis, which he made public in a tweet early on Friday, has upended his election campaign. He faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden on 3 November.

What did Trump say in his video from hospital?

In the four-minute message posted late on Saturday, Mr Trump, dressed in a suit jacket and shirt with no tie, thanked the doctors and nurses at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center close to Washington DC, where he is being treated.

"I came here, wasn't feeling so well, I'm much better now," he said, later adding: "Over the next period of a few days I guess that's the real test. We'll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days."

He wanted to get back on the campaign trail, he said, adding: "I'll be back. I think I'll be back soon. I look forward to finishing up the campaign the way it was started.

"We're going to beat this coronavirus or whatever you want to call it. And we're going to beat it soundly."

His first tweet on Sunday morning carried a video of supporters outside the hospital, along with the words: "Thank you so much!"

What do we know about his condition?

The latest update from Mr Trump's physician, Dr Sean Conley, says "while not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic" about the president's condition. He could not give a timetable for discharge.

In an earlier update given on Saturday morning outside Walter Reed hospital, Dr Conley had said the president was not being given extra oxygen and had been fever-free for 24 hours.

media captionDoctors looking after the US president said they're "cautiously optimistic, but he's doing great"

But comments from Mark Meadows to journalists given after that news conference painted a much more downbeat picture, saying the president was not yet "on a clear path to a full recovery."

The comments reportedly angered Mr Trump and Mr Meadows later tried to clarify his statement on Fox News, saying the president had "made unbelievable improvements from yesterday [Friday] morning, when I know a number of us, the doctor and I, were very concerned".

He said Mr Trump had "had a fever and his blood oxygen level had dropped rapidly", although there was "never even a risk of a transition of power".

Sources have told US media that Mr Trump did receive supplemental oxygen at the White House.

media captionPresident Trump's seven days before his Covid-positive test

At Saturday's news conference, Dr Conley had refused to say whether the president had ever been on oxygen despite being repeatedly questioned.

Dr Conley later said he had "misspoken" when appearing to suggest Mr Trump had been diagnosed with Covid-19 as early as Wednesday.

The president, being 74, a man and someone categorised as obese, is in a higher-risk category for Covid-19. He has so far been treated with an experimental drug cocktail injection and two doses of antiviral medication remdesivir.

Mr Trump's team said he had spent most of Saturday afternoon "conducting business and moving about the medical suite without difficulty".

Later, the White House released a picture of Mr Trump, said to have been taken on Saturday, in which it described the president working in the conference room at Walter Reed.

image copyrightReuters
image captionA picture released by the White House said to have been taken on Saturday

Communication chaos

The president likes to speak directly to the public and has often kept his own spokespeople out of the loop. His days at hospital have been particularly challenging for those who work for him.

The conflicting messages showed the problems inherent for Team Trump. They have not provided regular, transparent updates about his health in part because there has never been a coherent method of communicating the president's messages. He has always preferred to be his own spokesman, and his aides have deferred to him. Now he is not well, and his aides have floundered.

The moment that Mr Meadows spoke about the president's health was revealing on different levels. Journalists frequently grant permission to officials to speak off the record in order to obtain information. On this occasion, however, their exchange was inadvertently captured on camera: it was a "Washington Gaffe", a term coined by journalist Michael Kinsley to describe the moment when a politician expresses candidly what they and others think but do not say out loud.

His remarks showed the president's team was not consistent in their views or in their messaging, revealing the discord and chaos unfolding behind the scenes. Above all, it showed that they were deeply concerned about the president's health.

Who else around the president has tested positive?

First Lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive for Covid-19, is said to be doing well, and continues to rest at the White House. Aside from the president and Mrs Trump, at least six other people who attended the Rose Garden event for Amy Coney Barrett are now confirmed to have the virus.

media captionSenator Mike Lee, who later tested positive for Covid-19, seen hugging other attendees

Other people to have tested positive around Mr Trump include close aide Hope Hicks - believed to have been the first to show symptoms - campaign manager Bill Stepien and former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway.

Nicholas Luna, the latest person reported to have tested positive, is a personal assistant or "body man" of the president, and is in constant contact with Mr Trump

What about the political situation?

Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would postpone its work in full session until 19 October, but that work at the Judiciary Committee - which will examine Judge Barrett's nomination - would continue.

Two senators who have tested positive sit on the committee.

Mr Trump remains in charge. Vice-President Mike Pence, to whom under the constitution the president would transfer power temporarily should he become too ill to carry out his duties, has tested negative.

The president's campaign team said on Saturday it would move forward "at full speed" until Mr Trump could return to the campaign trail. It is calling on top "surrogates", including Mr Trump's sons Donald Jr and Eric, and Vice-President Mike Pence to "carry the campaign forward" for the time being.

Dubbed Operation Maga, a campaign spokesperson told Fox News the first event will be a virtual rally on Monday. 

Mr Pence is scheduled to debate Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

image copyrightReuters
image captionJoe Biden attends a virtual event in Wilmington, Delaware

Joe Biden has continued his campaign, although he has taken down negative advertising about the president, and held a virtual event on Saturday.

He said: "I don't want to be attacking the president and the first lady now."

But he added that the president's response to the pandemic had been "unconscionable".

"I find this one of the most despicable things that I've encountered in my whole career," he said.

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