Trump's doctor's comments on symptoms, care spark confusion

Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, and other doctors, arrive to brief reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, and other doctors, arrive to brief reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

For the second day in a row, the Navy commander in charge of President Donald Trump’s care left the world wondering: Just how sick is the president?

Dr. Sean Conley is trained in emergency medicine, not infectious disease, but he has a long list of specialists helping determine Trump’s treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley said Sunday that Trump is doing well enough that he might be sent back to the White House in another day -- even as he announced the president was given a steroid drug that’s only recommended for the very sick.

Worse, steroids like dexamethasone tamp down important immune cells, raising concern about whether the treatment choice might hamper the ability of the president’s body to fight the virus.

Then there’s the question of public trust: Conley acknowledged that that he had tried to present a rosy description of the president’s condition in his first briefing of the weekend “and in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

In fact, Conley refused to directly answer on Saturday whether the president had been given any oxygen -- only to admit the next day that he had ordered oxygen for Trump on Friday morning.

It's puzzling even for outside specialists.

“It’s a little unusual to have to guess what’s really going on because the clinical descriptions are so vague,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s chief medical and science officer. With the steroid news, “there's a little bit of a disconnect.”