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Trump's COVID-19 treatment raises red flags in medical community

Overlake Medical Center's director of pulmonary care said the medicine President Trump is being given is reserved for COVID-19 patients needing oxygen.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — President Donald Trump briefly ventured out in a motorcade on Sunday to salute cheering supporters outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a move that disregarded precautions meant to contain the deadly virus that has forced his hospitalization and killed more than 209,000 Americans.

"They've been out there for a long time and they've got Trump flags – they love our country," Trump said in a Twitter video.

But the move drew criticism on social media about the president putting those in the SUV with him at risk of contracting the virus. Secret Service agents inside the vehicle could be seen in masks and other protective gear.

The president tweeted that he would be discharged Monday night from the military hospital. White House officials said Trump was anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where doctors revealed on Sunday that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick. 

Trump started showing COVID-19 symptoms by Thursday, a full day before the White House announced what were initially called “mild symptoms.” He was taken to the hospital with a fever Friday after his oxygen levels dropped, and his oxygen levels dropped again Saturday.

The disclosures about Trump's oxygen levels and steroid treatment suggested the president is enduring more than a mild case of COVID-19.

"I was trying to reflect the, the, the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, that his course of illness has had," said Dr. Sean Conley, the president's physician.

Dr. Amy Markezich, the director of pulmonary care at Overlake Medical Center, said she has some concerns about the steroid Dexamethasone being used to treat the president.

"The steroid treatment that he's being given, raises a lot of eyebrows in the medical community," explained Markezich.

Markezich has been treating COVID-19 patients in the ICU for months. She said the use of this steroid on the president is surprising because it's only saved for the sickest patients and for good reason.

“People who get that treatment who don't require oxygen, there's actually a concern, there's a trend towards worse outcomes," said Markezich.

"That's why many in the medical community have wondered, ‘Well, how sick is he really?’" she added.

Markezich said she's seen COVID-19 patients get worse quickly, even after they've had good days. After seeing a video of Sunday’s motorcade, she cautioned Trump's medical team against breaking quarantine.

“The president is still early on in the illness," said Markezich. "What concerns me is that he's already showing signs of low oxygen levels and I do worry, well what's going to happen in a week when he's 10 days into the illness, which is usually when, if people are going to have worsening, that's oftentimes when we see it."