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US President Donald Trump’s blood oxygen level has twice dipped below 95% — an important threshold — including a transient dip to 93% on Saturday, White House physician Sean Conley said Sunday.
A normal blood oxygen level ― which indicates the oxygen saturation of someone’s blood ― usually ranges from 95% to 100%, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Doctors have reported that some seriously ill coronavirus patients can have critically low levels of blood oxygen, but may not report feeling out of breath.
In response to the second blood oxygen level drop, Trump’s medical team administered dexamethasone, a steroid that has been shown to save the lives of people seriously ill with COVID-19 in a clinical trial.
Despite these two incidents, Trump’s condition is continuing to improve, Conley said during a news conference. Trump’s medical team said they’re hoping to discharge the president “as early as tomorrow.”
Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday, just hours after revealing he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19.
Conley said Trump was doing “well” late Thursday into early Friday and showed only mild symptoms at that time. But by late Friday morning, Trump had a high fever, and his blood oxygen level dipped below 94%, Conley said.
Trump was then given supplemental oxygen for “about an hour,” despite the president insisting he didn’t need it, Conley said. On Friday, he also received a single infusion of an experimental coronavirus treatment developed by the biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
Shortly thereafter, Trump was transported to Walter Reed.
After Trump’s blood oxygen level dipped again on Saturday ― this time to 93% ― his doctors made the decision to administer a first dose of dexamethasone.
“We’re trying to maximise everything that we could do for him,” Conley said. “We debated whether we’d even start it ― the dexamethasone ― and we decided that, in this case, the potential benefits early on in the course probably outweighed any risks at this time.”
Conley said he wasn’t sure whether Trump received supplemental oxygen on Saturday but that if the president did, “It was very limited.” As of Sunday morning, Trump’s blood oxygen level was 98%, Conley said.
The president on Saturday also completed his second dose of remdesivir, an antiviral drug authorised by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in treating hospitalised coronavirus patients.
Trump hasn’t had a fever since Friday, his medical team said during the news conference Sunday. He was walking around the presidential suite of Walter Reed without issue earlier in the day, one of his doctors said.
Trump’s age and weight — he’s considered obese by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — put him at higher risk of serious illness due to the virus.
When asked Sunday if any X-rays or medical imaging showed signs of pneumonia or damage to Trump’s lungs, Conley wouldn’t say.
“There’s some expected findings but nothing of any major clinical concern,” Conley told reporters.
He was also evasive when asked whether Trump’s blood oxygen level ever dropped below 90%. Conley said he doesn’t “have any recordings here of that” and later added that the level “wasn’t down into the low 80s or anything.”
After Trump’s doctors on Saturday provided an optimistic update on Trump’s condition during their first news conference since his hospitalisation, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that Trump’s symptoms were actually “very concerning.”
Conley said Sunday that he believed Meadows statement was “misconstrued.”
During the news conference Saturday, Conley had also danced around questions about whether Trump was ever administered supplemental oxygen during the course of his treatment. Asked Sunday why he was previously reluctant to disclose that course of action, Conley said he had been “trying to reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president.
“I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of the illness in another direction,” Conley said. “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, is that he’s doing really well.”
Watch the full news conference with Trump’s medical team below.