White House says Trump’s ‘drive-by’ driver ‘VOLUNTEERED’ to be with president

DONALD Trump's former adviser has defended the president’s decision to travel outside Walter Reed hospital where he's being treated for coronavirus, saying the Secret Service members who accompanied him volunteered for the assignment.

Trump has been slammed for the stunt which saw him take a car ride with several Secret Service officers so he could wave to supporters congregated outside the facility on Sunday.

"We’re going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots we have out on the street," Trump said in a video before briefly leaving the hospital.

"They’ve been out here a long time and they’ve got Trump flags and they love our country."

Several medical professionals and many social media users condemned the president for unnecessarily exposing the officers to the virus.

But Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, hit back on Monday, telling Today that "the detail leader and the driver both volunteered for that assignment".

Dr James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed,  described the move as "insanity" and said his thoughts were "with the Secret Service forced to play".

"Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," he tweeted.

"They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater.

"That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding."

Phillips said the risk of viral transmission inside the car was “as high as it gets outside of medical procedures”.

Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, noted that hospital workers typically wear extensive protective gear — gowns, gloves, N95 masks and more — when they in close contact with a coronavirus patient.

“By taking a joy ride outside Walter Reed the president is placing his Secret Service detail at grave risk,” he tweeted.

The president's chief of staff, Mark Meadows also weighed in on the matter, this morning telling Fox that the presidents and agents had been traveling together for days.

"How do we think that he got here? We came in Marine One," Meadows said.

"The agent who's been with him… we took additional precautions with PPE. 

"A number of folks are just trying to make a big deal of that when indeed, I know that myself and some of the Secret Service detail are right there with him trying to make sure he's protected each and every day and that he returns to the White House as expeditiously as possible."

White House spokesman Judd Deere also defended the outing, telling reporters “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it.”

Deere said precautions included personal protective equipment, without providing further details, and added the trip “was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”

The White House did not immediately respond to questions from The Sun on Monday.

The Secret Service agents riding with Trump appeared to be wearing medical-grade masks, face shields and gowns over their clothes.

Masks “help, but they are not an impenetrable force field,” Saad B. Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, tweeted.

The president is expected to be discharged later today after he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the deadly virus – which has already killed 210,000 Americans – on Thursday. Trump was flown to Walter Reed hospital the following day.

The announcement comes after Dr Sean Conley confirmed Trump experienced two drops in oxygen saturation levels, a high fever, and was on supplemental oxygen for roughly one hour.

After it was reported Trump was "struggling to breathe," Conley said Trump was given a dose of Remdesivir.

The drug, which is used for the treatment of Ebola, SARS, and hepatitis C, is an antiviral medication that is designed to interfere with the virus’s ability to copy its genetic material.  

Remdesivir was approved for emergency use in May amid the outbreak.

The White House medic spoke to reporters to downplay conflicting reports from Meadows, who had said Trump's condition was dire.

“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” Meadows said Saturday afternoon.

“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

Some medics have now queried Trump's medical team's rosy picture of his health and expressed surprise over the decision to discharge him so soon.

"People can be doing OK, but it can get rocky very quickly," said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. 

Others told the Washington Post that Trump's medical team has withheld key information about his condition, adding he was on a "kitchen sink" regimen of antibodies, the anti-viral remdesivir, and steroids. 

"For someone sick enough to have required remdesivir and dexamethasone, I can't think of a situation in which a patient would be OK to leave on day three, even with the White House's medical capacity," said Robert Wachter, chairman of the University of California at San Francisco's department of medicine. 

Trump had earlier tweeted to thank his supporters who have been waving flags and holding signs outside of the hospital.

"I really appreciate all of the fans and supporters outside of the hospital. The fact is, they really love our Country and are seeing how we are MAKING IT GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!," he tweeted.

Trump also shared a video message from hospital on Saturday evening, warning the "next few days will be the real test" in his fight against coronavirus.

"I came here, wasn't feeling so well. I'm feeling much better now," he said. "I’m starting to feel good. You don’t know over the period of a few days – I guess that’s the real test.

"We’ll be seeing what happens over the next couple of days."

He added that he'll "'be back soon" and will "finish the campaign."

Jason Miller, a Trump campaign aide, said on Sunday that he had spoken to the president who reportedly told him that "he's going to defeat this virus," adding that "our campaign is going to defeat the virus."

"Once he gets out of the hospital, he's ready to get back to the campaign trail," Miller told NBC. "He sounded pretty energetic."

"But he said something else that I thought that was important too," Miller said.

"And that was to be careful, and that was to remind folks to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, make sure that if you can't socially distance, distance to wear a mask.

"I thought that was a pretty important message to send and a reminder to the rest of the country."

At least 7.4 million Americans have been infected with COVID and 210,000 have died so far.

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