Editor’s note: Kent Sepkowitz is a CNN medical analyst and a physician and infection control expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
On Saturday, a team of doctors in crisp white coats updated the country on President Donald Trump’s medical condition as he battles Covid-19 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
While many news reports focused on the apparent discrepancy between the doctors’ timeline of events and those the White House had announced, I will focus on the vast amount of clinical information that the medical team did not clearly provide.
Unfortunately, though the doctors spoke many words, they gave very little information about Trump’s condition. The public must receive a more complete and useful medical report.
First, the doctors danced around the simplest question of all: whether the President is on, or has been on, oxygen support. Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley’s evasiveness suggests that the President, though “not on oxygen right now,” may have been on oxygen earlier while still at the White House. Indeed, a source told CNN the President received oxygen on Friday.
The doctors also did not address whether he is receiving the potent anti-inflammation steroid, dexamethasone, which is known to both improve Covid-19 outcomes for critically ill patients, according to the UK’s national clinical trial, and make patients with lung inflammation from any cause feel better for a day or two. If he has received it, this might explain his apparent improvement from requiring oxygen to not needing support.
There are two tests that are germane and should be presented as part of the daily briefing. First, the white blood cell count is comprised of four types of cells. One of them, the lymphocyte, is key to fighting viral infections. Many reports on Covid-19 have shown that a very low number of lymphocytes suggests trouble ahead.
Finally, we must know the President’s mental condition and how his mental acuity is being assessed. Covid-19 infection is known to cause a “brain fog” — some sort of cognitive clumsiness that can linger for weeks and months.
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