White House Doctor Sean Conley answers questions surrounded by fellow doctors during an update on the condition of U.S. President Donald Trump on October 4, 2020 at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump has noted two drops in oxygen in the course of his coronavirus illness, but these have improved and may be released as early as Monday, Trump's doctor Dr. Sean Conley on Sunday.
"The president has continued to improve," Conley told reporters outside the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Trump is being treated. "As with any illness, there are frequent ups and downs as the course progresses."
However, doctors announced that Trump had been given a steroid that is usually given to patients with severe cases of Covid-19. This led several medical experts to raise major concerns about the president's condition.
"If they release him tomorrow, it would mean that he is virus negative. I don't think that's possible," said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration under Trump.
The president's doctors did not reveal the exact timing of Trump's oxygen levels drop or whether his lung scans showed damage from the disease.
Conley said Trump was fine Thursday night through Friday morning and had only mild symptoms with his high 90s blood oxygen levels.
Conley said the president had a high fever late Friday morning and his oxygen saturation had dropped below 94%. Healthy adults generally have blood oxygen levels of 95% or more.
"Given these developments, I was concerned about the potential for rapid disease progression," said Conley.
Trump then received additional oxygen and "after about a minute" his values were back above 95%. The president had supplemental oxygen for about an hour on Friday, Conley said.
On Saturday, Trump's oxygen saturation dropped to about 93%, the doctor said. It is unclear whether he was given oxygen on Saturday. Doctors monitored Trump and his oxygen levels rose again. The president's blood oxygen level is currently 98%, Conley said.
Conley also said the president was given dexamethasone, a steroid that treats inflammation in Covid-19 patients and has been shown to help patients with severe or critical illness. However, it is generally not used in mild or moderate Covid-19 cases. Trump also gave a second dose of remdesivir on Saturday.
Still, doctors said Trump could be released as early as Monday to continue his treatment at the White House. The president spent his third day in the hospital on Sunday after contracting the virus last week.
Dr. Sean Dooley, pulmonologist at Walter Reed, said the president hadn't had a fever since Friday morning, with favorable vital signs and no shortness of breath or other significant respiratory problems.
The Sunday briefing comes the day after a presentation by the doctors that created confusion and concern about the state of the president and raised new questions about when Trump is known to be sick.
Trump's medical team admitted on Sunday that they were overly positive about the president's condition on Saturday.
"I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of the disease in any other direction, and it turned out that we were trying to hide something that wasn't necessarily true," said Conley.
Skepticism about a possible dismissal on Monday
Gottlieb told CNBC's Shepard Smith that he was more concerned about the president's condition now than he was before the Sunday briefing, citing the president's dexamethasone treatment.
"They threw the sink at POTUS. The care will help. But they saw signs that he was decompensating," Gottlieb said of the president. "The dexamethasone was an important revelation. Many of us have speculated about it, but knowing that it is now an important fact."
Gottlieb also noted that the president's two drops of oxygen did not indicate a strong recovery and expressed concern that Trump's medical team would not talk about his lung scans and viral load, among other things. According to Gottlieb, the drops in oxygen indicate the president's lungs are affected by the disease.
"My biggest disadvantage is that the president's team offers minimal information and what is offered seems to be contradicting itself," said Gottlieb.
"Our plan for today is to let him eat and drink, get out of bed as much as possible, be mobile, and if he continues to look and feel the way he does today, we hope we can plan one Discharge to the White House tomorrow, where he can continue his treatment course, "said Dr. Brian Garibaldi, another member of the President's medical team.
The president posted a video Saturday night saying he was starting to feel fine and will be back soon, although he acknowledged that the next few days will be the "real test" of ongoing treatment.
Trump's coronavirus diagnosis was announced just before 1 a.m. EST on Friday. It is unclear when the president was infected with the virus.
At least seven people who attended a Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett in the White House Rose Garden on September 29, including Trump and the First Lady, tested positive for Covid-19.
– CNBC's Shepard Smith contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, the genetic testing startup Tempus, and the biotech company Illumina. Pfizer has signed a manufacturing agreement with Gilead to manufacture Remdesivir. Gottlieb is also co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel.