US Secret Service agents 'put at risk' by Trump trip outside hospital

5 October 2020, 07:04 | Updated: 5 October 2020, 08:30

Donald Trump took a ride out of hospital with Secret Service agents
Donald Trump took a ride out of hospital with Secret Service agents. Picture: AP

Donald Trump has been criticised for putting the health of Secret Service agents at risk by leaving hospital briefly for a photo opportunity.

The president was facing mounting criticism today over a publicity stunt where he waved at crowds from inside an SUV during his treatment for coronavirus.

Aides have also told US media that Mr Trump's outing - designed to be a show of strength from the President - was an "unnecessary risk."

Melania Trump meanwhile did not leave isolation at the White House to visit the President in hospital. An official said: "That would expose the agents who would drive her there and the medical staff who would walk her up to him."

Dr James P. Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University and an attending physician at Walter Reed Medical Center, said: "Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential “drive-by” just now has to be quarantined for 14 days.

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

"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. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."

Mr Trump is set to leave hospital today but new polling shows his re-election campaign faces significant challenges in the final weeks of the contest.

An ABC/Ipsos poll reveals that 72% do not believe Donald Trump "took appropriate precautions regarding his personal health" before contracting the virus.

Many of the President's own supporters are also struggling to defend his actions during the Covid-19 pandemic, with an ABC/Ipsos poll revealing that only one in three people approve of his handling of the crisis.

The president tweeted last night: "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!"

The president's journey came shortly after he posted a video posted on Twitter saying he had "learned a lot" about the disease.

"It's been a very interesting journey," Mr Trump said.

"I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the let's read the books school. And I get it, and I understand it. And it's a very interesting thing."

Meanwhile, Joe Biden's campaign says the Democratic presidential nominee tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday.

The results come five days after Biden spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with President Donald Trump.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Trump's doctor said the president's blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he "has continued to improve" since then.

The update from Dr Sean Conley added a new layer of confusion to the president's fight with Covid-19 as he also suggested Mr Trump could be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre as early as Monday.

Mr Trump's doctors, speaking on the steps of the military hospital where he was being treated for a third consecutive day, refused to disclose the specific timing of the president's dip in oxygen or whether lung scans showed any damage.

Dr Conley acknowledged he was trying to downplay the severity of the president's condition the day before.

"I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had. Didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction," Dr Conley said. "And in doing so, came off like we're trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true. The fact of the matter is that he's doing really well."

Dr Conley said the president had a "high fever" and a blood oxygen level below 94% on Friday and during "another episode" on Saturday. He was evasive when asked whether Mr Trump's level had dropped below 90%: "We don't have any recordings here on that."

The level currently stands at 98%, Mr Trump's medical team said.

Mr Trump offered his own assessment of his status the night before in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to "be back soon".

And he was back on social media early Sunday morning, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters, most not wearing masks, gathered outside the medical centre.

The president's health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the US government but also to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Mr Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, pulled his attack ads off the air during Mr Trump's stay in hospital, and on Sunday he dispatched senior aides to deliver a largely friendly message.

"We are sincerely hoping that the president makes a very quick recovery, and we can see him back out on the campaign trail very soon," Biden adviser Symone Sanders said.

She added: "This is a glaring reminder that the virus is real."

Mr Biden was at home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday with no plans for in-person campaigning or other public appearances.