Hours after President Donald Trump held a rally on the White House lawn for hundreds of supporters, his doctor said he is “no longer considered a transmission risk to others.”
In a memo released Saturday night, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said he was sharing information about the status of Trump’s coronavirus infection with permission from Trump, The New York Times reported. But the amount of information he provided was limited. Trump was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 2.
Health experts have repeatedly questioned the severity of Trump’s illness, and his health could still deteriorate in the next few days, they added.
“I don’t think he’s out of the woods for certain,” Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician based in South Carolina, told the Times. Trump’s recent course of steroids, which suppress certain parts of the immune system, could also make him vulnerable to other infections, Kuppalli added. “I would still be careful with someone like him.”
The start date of Trump’s symptoms has also remained unclear, the Times reported. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people stop being infectious 10 days after becoming sick. By Conley’s assessment, Trump would have needed to show signs of his illness on Wednesday, Sept. 30, for Saturday to qualify as 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
“This evening I am happy to report that, in addition to the president meeting CDC criteria for the safe discontinuation of isolation, this morning’s COVID P.C.R. sample demonstrates, by currently recognized standards, he is no longer considered a transmission risk to others,” Conley said in his memo. “Now at day 10 from symptoms onset, fever-free for well over 24 hours and all symptoms improved, the assortment of advanced diagnostic tests obtained reveal there is no longer evidence of actively replicating virus,” he wrote.
“In addition, sequential testing throughout his illness has demonstrated decreasing viral loads that correlate with increasing cycle threshold times, as well as decreasing and now undetectable subgenomic [COVID] mRNA,” Conley added.
But several experts were skeptical about the wording describing Trump’s test results, which did not explicitly categorize the president as “negative” for the coronavirus.
Conley’s memo suggested Trump’s viral load was dropping, but appeared to still be detectable. And the mRNA Conley mentioned is a part of the virus that can be spotted by lab work, Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Southern California, told the Times. But that procedure is “experimental at this point,” she added.
There is also no test that can definitively show if a person at the end of a coronavirus infection is still contagious, Melissa Miller, a clinical microbiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told the newspaper.
It was unclear when Trump last had a fever or whether his symptoms were resolved or merely better than they were before, the Times reported. He was treated with an experimental antibody cocktail, the antiviral remdesivir and dexamethasone, a heavy steroid that appeared intended to reduce inflammation in his lungs. He has said he is off the medication now, the Times reported.