Joe Biden tested negative for the coronavirus for the third time since he was potentially exposed at last week’s debate, his campaign said Sunday.
The former vice president, 77, stood more than six feet from President Donald Trump for 90 minutes Tuesday night, two days before the president announced that he had tested positive. Studies suggest that people may be most likely to spread the virus during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms.
The Democratic nominee is not yet in the clear, however, because most people incubate the virus for two to 14 days before testing positive or showing symptoms. Johns Hopkins University researchers have reported that PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests for the coronavirus are most likely to come back positive eight days after exposure to the virus.
Trump has "improved," according to White House physician Sean Conley, but experienced significant oxygen drops on Friday and Saturday. His doctors said he has had no fever since Friday morning and could be discharged as early as Monday.
Conley declined to answer questions about the president's lungs, including whether there is scarring or whether Trump has pneumonia.
Trump made a surprise visit to supporters outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., late Sunday afternoon, waving from inside a vehicle that drove by the crowd.
Footage on CNN showed the president, wearing a mask and seated in the back of a black SUV, waving to supporters as the motorcade passed by the crowd.
Trump announced the move in a video posted to Twitter minutes earlier, hailing the "absolutely amazing" work of the doctors and staff at the hospital.
"I also think we're going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street. And they've been out there for a long time, and they've got Trump flags, and they love our country. So, I'm not telling anybody but you, but I'm about to make a little surprise visit," Trump said in the video.
"Perhaps I'll get there before you get to see me," he added. "But when I look at the enthusiasm . . . we have more enthusiasm than maybe anybody."
In the video, Trump also referenced his time in the hospital, telling supporters, "It's been a very interesting journey."
"I learned a lot about covid," he said. "I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the 'let's read the book' school. And I get it, and I understand it. And it's a very interesting thing, and I'm going to be letting you know about it."
At a news briefing Sunday morning, Conley publicly acknowledged for the first time that the president was administered supplemental oxygen on Friday at the White House and had a "high" fever at the time.
Conley also said that the president's oxygen level dropped Saturday for a period but that he wasn't sure whether Trump was given supplemental oxygen a second time.
"I'd have to check with the nursing staff," Conley told reporters outside the medical center. "I don't think that - if he did, it was very, very limited. … And the only oxygen that I ordered, or that we provided, was that Friday morning, initially."
Asked about his reluctance to disclose to the public on Saturday that Trump had been on oxygen, Conley said he had been trying not to cause alarm.
"I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had," the physician said. "I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true. … The fact of the matter is that he's doing really well."
Another doctor on the team, Brian Garibaldi, said Trump could be discharged from Walter Reed as soon as Monday if he continues to do well.
Trump's doctors knew Saturday - and declined to tell reporters - that the president had been given supplemental oxygen the previous day. But White House communications director Alyssa Farah suggested Sunday that the doctors did not inform the public because they did not have the information.
In a Fox News interview Sunday afternoon, Farah said the doctors were initially hesitant because accuracy is more important than speed. When host Trace Gallagher pointed out that the doctors had the information but chose not to release it, Farah changed course.
"It's a very - it's a common medical practice that you want to convey confidence. . . . I know this president. I don't know that he needs his spirits raised, but it's actually a very common medical practice," she said.
Earlier Sunday, at a briefing outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Conley, Trump's doctor, said that in not initially disclosing that Trump had been on supplemental oxygen, he was "trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of 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, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true," Conley said.
Farah on Sunday also disputed reports that Trump is angry with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for telling reporters his condition was concerning.
"No, absolutely not. Mark Meadows has barely left the president's side," Farah said. She added: "Honestly, if anything, I think the chief of staff's comments reflect how close their relationship is. . . . They couldn't be closer, working together throughout this."
Trump said in a video posted Saturday night that he is feeling "much better now" and expects to "be back soon" after being hospitalized with the coronavirus. In a memorandum released by the White House, Trump's physician said the president has made "substantial progress" and will be closely monitored Sunday in between doses of the experimental drug, remdesivir.
The statements of optimism came after aides and doctors created confusion about Trump's health status and the timeline of his treatment and diagnosis, injecting a degree of uncertainty into the nation's understanding of the president's condition and who may have been exposed.
"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," Meadows, said Saturday afternoon. "We're still not on a clear path to a full recovery."
Meadows later told Fox News that the next two days could be "tough," but underscored the president's improvement since Friday.
Biden's campaign said it will disclose the result of every coronavirus test the candidate takes, following increased pressure for more transparency. The former vice president plans to hold campaign events in Florida, a swing state, on Monday.
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for the first presidential debate and is now infected with the coronavirus, said Saturday night that he has gone to a hospital as a "precautionary measure."
The steroid that Trump's physicians say they administered to the president on Saturday is typically reserved only for severely ill coronavirus patients and may pose dangers for people with relatively mild cases.
Recent research showed that the drug, dexamethasone, reduced the risk of death by about a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those who receive supplemental oxygen, as Trump did. The drug has not been shown to help less sick patients and could have negative effects if administered too early because of the way it suppresses the immune system.
In treatment guidelines, the National Institutes of Health recommends against using dexamethasone in patients who do not require supplemental oxygen.
Mortality rates were "lower among patients who were randomized to receive dexamethasone than among those who received the standard of care," according to the NIH. "This benefit was observed in patients who required supplemental oxygen at enrollment. No benefit of dexamethasone was seen in patients who did not require supplemental oxygen at enrollment."
The World Health Organization reached a similar conclusion in September, saying the drug should be given only to patients with "severe and critical" cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"We suggest not to use corticosteroids in the treatment of patients with non-severe COVID-19 as the treatment brought no benefits, and could even prove harmful," the WHO's guidelines read.
Conley said in Sunday morning's news conference that Trump was given dexamethasone Saturday after his blood-oxygen levels dropped.
The inexpensive, widely available drug was the first medication shown to increase people's chances of surviving covid-19 after a team from the University of Oxford released a report in June examining its effects on more than 2,000 severely ill patients.
Also this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., both said the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett will begin Oct. 12, even though some senators on the committee have the coronavirus.
A majority of Americans - 72% - say Trump has not taken the risk of contracting the coronavirus seriously enough, according to an ABC News-Ipsos poll released Sunday.
The poll, conducted Friday and Saturday after Trump disclosed his positive test result, found that an equal portion of respondents said the president didn't take the appropriate precautions when it came to his health.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said Trump had taken the risk of infection seriously enough and took the appropriate health precautions, according to the poll.
Trump remains hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he arrived Friday evening. For months before he fell ill, Trump downplayed the severity of the virus and mocked the wearing of masks, ridiculing Biden in last week's debate for covering his mouth and nose in public.
The poll involved 506 general population adults older than 18 who made up a "nationally representative probability sample," according to ABC News-Ipsos. It had a margin of error of five points.
Respondents were split down the middle on whether Trump's infection will prevent him from effectively handling his duties as president if faced with a military or national security crisis.
Overall, Americans' attitudes about Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic remained essentially unchanged since mid-September, the poll found, with 35% of respondents approving and 64% disapproving.
But the number of respondents who said they were concerned that they or someone they knew would be infected jumped from 72% to 81% in roughly the same period, according to the poll. Nineteen percent of respondents said they weren't concerned about contracting the virus, the poll found, compared with 28% in mid-September.
Senior Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes said Sunday that campaign staff spoke to Trump by telephone on Saturday and that the president was "as upbeat and assertive as he's ever been."
"This president is going to recover. We are highly confident of that," Cortes said on "Fox News Sunday."
Cortes also said the campaign will continue apace while Trump is sidelined.
"We think it's important that our campaign vigorously proceed," he said. "The MAGA movement is bigger than just President Trump. He's instrumental, of course, but he's not the only key element of the MAGA movement." MAGA refers to "Make America Great Again," Trump's campaign slogan.
In the president's absence, Cortes said, other surrogates, including Vice President Mike Pence, "and millions of Americans need to step up and, to some degree, fill the void that is left because our champion, our main instrument, is not able at this moment to vigorously campaign and certainly campaign physically right now at all."
Cortes said Pence "is going to continue to campaign, of course with an abundance of caution. That was already in place, but even more so now."
The vice president and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the coronavirus again on Sunday morning, an administration official said, days ahead of the vice-presidential debate and a campaign event that Pence plans to attend in Arizona.
The Trump campaign announced that Pence will hold the Arizona event in-person on Thursday, even as coronavirus infections and exposures rattle the White House.
Pence is also set to debate Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, on Wednesday at the University of Utah.
Attorney General William Barr again tested negative for the coronavirus on Sunday - his fourth negative test since Friday - and is "self-quarantining," a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
Senior Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders said Sunday that the Democratic presidential nominee is planning to attend the next debate and hopes Trump, who has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, will be able to participate, although she noted that the decision will be up to the president's doctors.
"We are looking forward to the debate on October 15 in Miami," Sanders said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." She added: "We are hoping that President Trump can participate. We are hoping he is medically able to participate."
Sanders said the Biden campaign extends its thoughts and prayers to the president and hopes he makes a quick recovery. Neither the White House nor the Trump campaign has been in touch with the Biden team after Trump's diagnosis, Sanders said, although she also maintained that the former vice president "was not exposed" since he remained more than six feet away from Trump during last week's presidential debate in Cleveland.
"Vice President Biden has tested negative. Our traveling staff has tested negative," Sanders said. She added that Biden is "being tested regularly" and will be tested again today.
In an interview on ABC News's "This Week," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said the campaign hopes the Commission on Presidential Debates is "going to put in place every adjustment necessary to ensure that it's fully safe" at the next presidential debate.
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said Sunday that he spoke with the president "for a half-hour yesterday" and that he "sounded pretty good."
"He said he was getting back on his feet; he was cracking jokes" and asking about the campaign, Miller said on "This Week."
Miller emphasized that Trump is "personally" going to defeat the coronavirus, "as is our country." He said he and the president are urging Americans to "be careful - make sure people are washing their hands, wearing a mask."
The Trump adviser said he disagreed with the new ABC News-Ipsos poll showing that 72% of respondents believe Trump did not take the risk of contracting the virus seriously enough and did not take necessary precautions. Trump "had to take this head on," Miller said.
"He had to get out there, not just as the leader of the country, but of the free world," Miller added. "He couldn't just stay upstairs, hidden."
When host George Stephanopoulos said that Trump "didn't have to hold rallies" or "mock Biden for wearing masks," Miller countered that Trump "is one of the most tested people in the entire country" and that "there's a lot we still don't know about the virus."
"He hasn't been cavalier at all," Miller said of Trump.
Meanwhile, Nick Luna, Trump's personal assistant, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a senior administration official. News of Luna's diagnosis was first reported Saturday night by Bloomberg News.
At least two White House residence staffers contracted the virus some weeks ago and were sent home. Administration officials do not believe those staffers directly gave the virus to the president, given the passage of time since their cases.
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The Washington Post's Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.
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Video: http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/trumps-doctor-says-his-oxygen-levels-have-dropped-twice/2020/10/04/ffd70987-22e5-4eff-847b-bc83af365cd0_video.html(The Washington Post)
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