Trump criticised after he takes a 'joy ride' to greet supporters
US President breaks Covid quarantine protocol to acknowledge his supporters
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump briefly left the military hospital where he is being treated for Covid-19 in a motorcade on Sunday to wave to supporters gathered outside, sparking criticism that he was putting others at risk for a political stunt.
Mr Trump was captured on video waving from the back seat of a black SUV Sunday evening, wearing a mask, as crowds cheered and waved American flags and pro-Trump banners outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.
Patients who test positive are generally required to quarantine for 14 days. The disease has killed more than 200,000 Americans.
White House spokesman Judd Deere described the drive as a "short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters" and said Mr Trump quickly returned to his hospital suite.
Mr Deere said appropriate precautions were taken before the ride to protect the President and those supporting him.
Criticism of the ride was swift, including from an attending physician at Walter Reed.
"Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," Dr James Phillips said on Twitter.
"They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre."
In a second tweet, Dr Phillips added: "That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of Covid-19 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."
Dr Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University school of medicine and health services, said in a tweet: "By taking a joy ride outside Walter Reed, the president is placing his Secret Service detail at grave risk... This is the height of irresponsibility."
CNN reported that members of the Secret Service voiced escalating concern at what many of the agency's personnel have determined is total disregard for their well-being.
"That should never have happened," one current Secret Service agent who works on the presidential and first family detail said after Mr Trump's drive-by, adding that those agents who went along for the ride would now be required to quarantine.
"I mean, I wouldn't want to be around them," the agent said.
Meanwhile, doctors not involved in treating Mr Trump said the fact that he has been started on dexamethasone - a generic steroid widely used to reduce inflammation - is the strongest evidence yet that his case may be severe.
"What I heard in the news conference description suggested the President has more severe illness than the generally upbeat picture painted," said Dr Daniel McQuillen, an infectious disease specialist .
The Infectious Disease Society of America says dexamethasone is beneficial in people with critical or severe Covid-19 who require extra oxygen. - REUTERS