Infectious disease expert weighs in on President Trump’s brief trip outside hospital to greet supporters

President Trump leaves hospital briefly to wave at well wishers from his motorcade

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a tweet Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump responded to criticism about his decision to get into an SUV Sunday to greet supporters who had been standing outside Walter Reed military hospital, where the president has been receiving treatment for COVID-19.

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The president tweeted: “It is reported that the Media is upset because I got into a secure vehicle to say thank you to the many fans and supporters who were standing outside of the hospital for many hours, and even days, to pay their respect to their President. If I didn’t do it, Media would say RUDE!!!”

The president tweeted his response to critics about him leaving Walter Reed to wave at supporters.
The president tweeted his response to critics about him leaving Walter Reed to wave at supporters. (Source: Twitter)

Critics accuse the president of unnecessarily endangering the lives of the Secret Service agents who were inside the SUV with him.

Dr. James P. Phillips, a doctor of emergency medicine at George Washington University and an attending physician at Walter Reed tweeted, "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."

Walter Reed attending physician tweeted his critique of the president's decision to leave the hospital.
Walter Reed attending physician tweeted his critique of the president's decision to leave the hospital. (Source: Twitter)

But on Monday, the president’s doctor defended the decision.

“The president has been surrounded by medical and security staff for days wearing full PPE,” Dr. Sean Conley, the White House Physician, said. “U.S. Secret Service agents were in that same level of PPE for a very short period of time.”

WMC Action News 5 asked Baptist Memorial Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld if he’d be okay with a hospitalized COVID-19 patient leaving the hospital and coming back a few minutes later as the president did.

“I mean I wouldn’t let them is the short answer to be perfectly honest,” Threlkeld said.

Threlkeld says hospitals normally won’t allow patients to come and go as they please, since the hospitals could lose their Medicare coverage.

“In general, that’s not an allowable thing,” Threlkeld said. “The other thing about it is what danger it could mean for other people.”

He says the protective medical equipment Secret Service agents had on may reduce their risk.

But he says it’s just not something he would allow.

“I would not want to be in a closed vehicle with someone who had COVID-19 to be perfectly honest. So in general I would say that is something you would almost never see in a hospitalized patient,” Threlkeld said.

Threlkeld also reminded reporters that unlike most hospitals, Walter Reed is a military hospital.

President Trump is the commander-in-chief of the military, which means he is their boss.

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