When Donald Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 in early October, most signs pointed to a serious case. For starters, he was in the hospital, an outcome that typically indicates a severe infection. Given that he was the president, one could paper over that fact with claims of an abundance of caution. Still, the aggressive drug cocktail doctors prescribed — combined with predictably conflicting official messaging about Trump’s health — suggested that the situation might be somewhat more dire than advertised. And now the New York Times confirms that Trump’s coronavirus case really was bad — so bad, in fact, that he nearly required a ventilator.
The Times attributes the ventilator disclosure to two separate unnamed sources, and adds that scans of Trump’s lungs showed infiltrates, pointing to the buildup of fluid and debris that can result from inflammation in severe infections. On top of that, Trump’s blood oxygen level reportedly fell into the 80s; the threshold for concern sits in the low 90s.
Back in October, Trump’s doctor, Sean Conley, did eventually admit that Trump’s oxygen levels had dropped twice before the president relented to demands he be hospitalized. Conley also granted that the 74-year-old had been given supplemental oxygen and that he’d had a “high fever.” Despite all that, Conley insisted that Trump was actually “doing really well,” despite White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’s assertion the day before Conley’s statement that the situation looked “critical,” and they were “not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
Conley’s team also put Trump on courses of remdesivir (an antiviral drug) and dexamethasone, a steroid that has showed some promise in treating serious-to-critical COVID-19 cases. According to the Times, he also received an antibody cocktail from Regeneron — which is supposed to mitigate hospitalization risk in infected people, and which the FDA had not approved at the time — while still at the White House. Trump went on to tout the drug as a miracle cure, although, as the Times points out, Trump still had to go to the hospital, so it didn’t really do its job.
None of this feels particularly surprising. During his illness, the president reportedly worried that he “could be one of the diers,” and his treatment plan suggested that Conley may have obfuscated some facts. Still, what’s arguably most concerning is how little remains known about Trump’s contagion timeline: how sick he might’ve been at the presidential debate days before his diagnosis, and how sick he might’ve been during the motorcade joyride he demanded during his hospital stay. A superspreader president, truly.