Donald Trump has said he is leaving the military hospital where he has been treated for Covid-19 and will continue his recovery at the White House, adding that he is feeling good and the nation should not be afraid of the virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans.
The president’s expected return comes as the scale of the outbreak within the White House itself is still being uncovered. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she had tested positive for the virus on Monday morning and was entering quarantine.
“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M.,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. … I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
He is expected to make the journey aboard the presidential helicopter, Marine One.
It is unclear how long Mr Trump will remain in isolation at the White House. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms should isolate for at least 10 days.
His doctor, Navy Commander Sean Conley, was also upbeat at a briefing and said the president could resume his normal schedule once “there is no evidence of live virus still present”.
But he cautioned that it was “uncharted territory” having a patient receive such aggressive medication so early in the course of the disease, and Mr Trump would not be fully out of the woods for another week.
Dr Conley repeatedly declined to share results of medical scans of Mr Trump’s lungs, saying he was not at liberty to discuss the information because the president did not waive doctor-patient confidentiality on the subject.
White House officials said he was anxious to be released after three nights at Walter Reed, where doctors revealed on Sunday that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick.
Less than a month before Election Day, Mr Trump is eager to project strength despite his illness. The still-infectious president surprised supporters gathered outside the hospital, riding by on Sunday in a black SUV with the windows rolled up. Secret Service agents inside the vehicle could be seen in masks and other protective gear.
The move capped a weekend of contradictions that fuelled confusion about his health, which has imperilled the leadership of the US government and upended the final stages of the presidential campaign.
While Mr Trump’s physician offered a rosy prognosis on his condition, his briefings lacked basic information, including the findings of lung scans, or were quickly muddled by more serious assessments of the president’s health by other officials.
In a short video released by the White House on Sunday, Mr Trump insisted he understood the gravity of the moment, but his actions moments later, by leaving the hospital and sitting inside the SUV with others, suggested otherwise.
Ms McEnany spoke briefly with reporters on Sunday evening without wearing a mask, but said that no members of the White House press corps spent enough time around her to be considered close contacts.
Joe Biden’s campaign said the Democratic presidential nominee again tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday. The results came five days after he spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Mr Trump.
Mr Biden, who has taken a far more cautious approach to in-person events — and has been mocked repeatedly for it by Mr Trump — had two negative tests on Friday.
The president’s doctors sidestepped questions on Sunday about exactly when his blood oxygen dropped — episodes they neglected to mention in multiple statements the day before — or whether lung scans showed any damage.
It was the second straight day of obfuscation from a White House already suffering from a credibility crisis, and it raised more doubts about whether the doctors treating the president were sharing accurate, timely information with the American public about the severity of his condition.