Coronavirus

‘He’s nowhere near out of the woods’: Local doctors react to Trump returning to White House with COVID-19

“We are living a nightmare, and coronavirus is now in the White House.”

President Donald Trump stands on the balcony outside of the Blue Room as returns to the White House on Monday.

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Local doctors and infectious disease experts are slamming President Donald Trump for returning to the White House after a weekend at Walter Reed for treatment of COVID-19 and announcing to the public that people shouldn’t “be afraid” of the virus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

“Correction: Do not let Covid dominate your *death*,”  Dr. Jeremy S. Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s, wrote in response to the president’s tweet telling people not to let the virus “dominate” their lives. “STAY AWAY. WEAR A MASK.”

When the president took off his mask on a White House balcony and repeated his urgings in a video while saying he’d “learned a lot” about the virus, one of Faust’s colleagues at Brigham and Women’s weighed-in. 

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“The President should not be taking his mask off— based on his purported timeline of when symptoms started, he should be in isolation,” Dr. Abraar Karan wrote. 

Faust condemned the message in the president’s video on the White House balcony.

“Ignore every single word this man said, except ‘be careful’,” the Brigham doctor wrote. “He is on medication that can alter his judgment. Repeat, ignore this infected person.”

The president is receiving doses of the antiviral drug remdesivir as well as dexamethasone, a steroid that suppresses body’s immune response and has typically been given later in the progression of the illness. Doctors told the New York Times that steroids in some cases can cause psychiatric effects and stressed that the president has received the different therapies together in quick succession, which isn’t how coronavirus patients are typically treated. 

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“You’re giving remdesivir, you’re giving dexamethasone, and you’re giving monoclonal antibodies,” Thomas McGinn, physician-in-chief at Northwell Health in New York, told the Times. “No one’s ever done that, not to mention famotidine and some zinc and a mix of cocktails, or whatever else he’s on.”

Local physicians expressed anger and concern about the continuing cavalier attitude from Trump and the White House, despite his diagnosis. 

“It is just putting politics over public health,” Boston Medical Center Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett told WCVB of the president’s messaging. 

“Hard for Covid to not ‘dominate your life’ when you’ve lost loved ones to it, your neighbors have lost livelihoods to it, your friends are struggling to put food on the table cause of it, your kids can’t go to school cause of it, your colleagues are working night & day to stop it,” tweeted Dr. Ranu Dhillon, a physician with Harvard Medical School’s department of Global Health and Social Medicine.

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The president’s doctors said Monday the commander-in-chief is not fully “out of the woods” yet in his recovery and isn’t expected to be for another week.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, stressed that point in an interview Tuesday the Today show.

“People can get worse, seven, even 10 days out after their diagnosis or their onset of symptoms,” Jha said. “We don’t have a good timeline on him — it’s been confusing. But he’s still in that window. So obviously we hope that he gets through the rest of this without a worsening of his symptoms, but he’s nowhere near out of the woods.”

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In his interview with CNN, Dr. Faust echoed the concerns that the lack of a clear timeline on when the president was infected is a problem, saying it is likely that the president is either going back to the White House contagious or that he was contagious when he returned to the building after his debate with Joe Biden.

“We know he’s putting people at tremendous risk,” Faust said. “From the viewpoint of coronavirus, which doesn’t have any sentience, but think about it — it started halfway around the world and today got a ride in Marine One, via its host, the president of the United States. It’s unbelievably weak, but the coronavirus has really proven resilient. And the president is now going to spread it possibly to other people including people in these images that we’re seeing.”

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The president telling people not to worry about the virus is a “tremendous problem,” he said. 

“When he was first infected, we had two [possible] bad outcomes,” Faust said. “Either he had a bad outcome and yet another life was lost. Or people looked at him and said, ‘Oh look, it’s okay. This thing isn’t so bad after all.’ There are no wins here. We are living a nightmare, and coronavirus is now in the White House.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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