Donald Trump repeatedly asked "am I going to die?" as he fell sick with coronavirus, it was claimed. Reports in America say the US President, 74, feared the same fate as a friend who died from the disease. It is claimed he said: “Am I going out like Stan Chera? Am I?” Chera, a long-time supporter, died aged 77 in April in New York. It was also claimed last night that Mr Trump was “still not on a clear path to recovery”. An official familiar with his health said: “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.” The comment was contained in a note handed to reporters by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
It was at odds with the President’s medical team who said he was “improving” and “fever free”. They spoke as the US leader was due to spend a second night in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr Shaun Dooley, a critical care physician, said Mr Trump was in “high spirits” and told his team: “I feel like I could walk out of here today.” But White House physician Dr Sean Conley refused to answer with clarity when pressed if the President needed help breathing.
Following the doctors’ press conference, Mr Trump tweeted: “Doctors, nurses and all at the great Walter Reed Medical Centre, and others from likewise incredible institutions who have joined them, are AMAZING. Tremendous progress has been made over the last six months in fighting this plague. With their help, I am feeling well.” Later Mr Meadows said: “The President is doing very well. He is up and about and asking for documents to review. Doctors are very pleased.”
Yesterday it was claimed Mr Trump had taken oxygen at the White House after displaying “clinical indications” of the virus on Thursday afternoon – earlier than reported by his team. He is also rumoured to have been hooked up to a portable oxygen tank when he left for hospital in a helicopter on Friday. A source told the Sunday Mirror the President was then adamant about being seen to walk out of the White House after some aides suggested he be pushed in a wheelchair.
“It was all about optics to Trump,” they said. “It would have been devastating to his re-election campaign given how bombastic he has been over Covid to see that it had laid him low.” Mr Trump is vulnerable to Covid because of his age, sex and obesity. His supporters organised prayer vigils for him and First Lady Melania, 50, who also tested positive and is said to have a mild cough and headache.
But many Americans pointed to the level of medication he was receiving compared to millions struggling under US private health care. Some mocked him over revelations he paid just £580 in tax in the first year of his presidency and nothing for 11 of the last 18 years. One tweeted: “So the guy who only pays $750 in taxes is going to get the best medical attention taxpayer money provides. I guess he’ll be a fan of social medicine now that he’ll have a pre-existing condition.” Military veteran Austin Kocher added: “Now he’s receiving the best ‘experimental’ medical care from the nation’s top doctors. Who’s the drain on America’s social welfare system again?”
The President is on a cocktail of experimental drugs developed by US firm Regeneron described as “very positive and very potent” by experts. He has also been given Remdesivir, which has emergency use authorisation in the States and can shorten recovery time for some sufferers. Mr Trump’s condition has raised the possibility he could become incapacitated or die in office. In the event of his death, Vice President Mike Pence, 61 – who tested negative for the virus – will take over. But if a president cannot exercise his duties yet refuses to quit or wins the election but cannot serve, then it becomes a legal minefield.
Mr Trump’s illness has put the brakes on his re-election campaign with “mega rallies” on hold less than a month before the November 3 poll. A record £7.73billion will be spent by both candidates – compared to £5.4billion in 2016. Since Mr Trump’s admission to hospital, Democrat rival Joe Biden – who has tested negative for Covid – announced his campaign was pulling all negative ads. The former Vice President to Barack Obama vowed to “continue to pray for the health and safety of the President and the First Lady”. Republican Mr Trump’s campaign team has since sent out a fundraising email with the subject line “Lyin’ Obama” mocking Mr Biden for being “asleep in his basement”.
Questions are being asked about how often Mr Trump was tested. Many pointed to how the White House timeline of his diagnosis seemed to defy what doctors have learned about the disease. Experts highlighted how symptoms began to show just hours after his positive test, instead of days later as is normal. The White House once described him as “the most tested man in the world” but many think he was infrequently assessed. Yesterday more aides and politicians who had been around the President confirmed they too had Covid, including his campaign chief. Yesterday PM Boris Johnson, who was seriously ill with Covid in March, said: “He’s a naturally obviously very resilient character. I’m sure he’ll come through it very well.”