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US elections 2020

Trump's doctors admit downplaying illness, but say he is improving

President receives steroid shown to aid critical COVID-19 patients needing oxygen

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump's medical team on Sunday acknowledged providing a rosy assessment of his condition the previous day, but said the president is improving and could be discharged from the hospital as early as Monday.

The doctors said that Trump had a "high fever" on Friday and a second incident Saturday in which his oxygen levels dropped. He was provided supplemental oxygen twice during his battle with COVID-19, on Thursday and Friday, they noted.

Trump's oxygen levels dropped to 93% at one point, according to the doctors. A reading of below 94% is sign of a severe case of COVID-19, many medical experts believe.

"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," Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said of his Saturday update in a briefing with reporters outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington.

Trump also was given dexamethasone, Conley said, a steroid shown in studies to improve survival for patients hospitalized with critical COVID-19 who need extra oxygen.

The doctors said Trump has not run a fever since Friday and that his liver and kidney function remained normal after the second dose in a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences.

On Saturday, Conley had said the president "is doing very well" and was not currently receiving oxygen as part of his treatment, but dodged a question on whether Trump had received oxygen before being admitted.

Following this description of Trump's condition, a person familiar with the president's health -- reported by The New York Times to be White House chief of staff Mark Meadows -- said that his "vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care."

"We're still not on a clear path to a full recovery," this person said.

This contradiction raised questions about how forthcoming doctors are being as to Trump's condition.

Speaking on Fox News on Saturday evening, Meadows said: "Yesterday, we were real concerned. He had a fever, and his blood oxygen level dropped rapidly."

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