President Donald Trump said Thursday he doesn’t think he’s contagious anymore, but medical experts say that’s impossible to know a week after his diagnosis with COVID-19.
Most people with COVID-19 can stop isolating and be around others about 10 days after they first showed symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s provided their symptoms have improved, they have not had a fever for 24 hours and are no longer on any medication to reduce a high temperature. But there’s no way to know for certain that someone is no longer contagious so soon after falling ill, experts say.
“At this point, there’s no diagnostic test that tells you whether a person that’s infected remains infectious,” said Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, who leads Stanford University’s virology labs. “There is absolutely a chain of unknowns.”
According to Trump’s latest medical update, he completed his COVID-19 treatment on Thursday and had responded “extremely well.” Earlier in the day, Trump said he was still taking dexamethasone, a steroid that can reduce fevers. In Thursday’s update, Dr. Sean Conley, said Saturday was day 10 after Trump’s Oct. 1 diagnosis and that he anticipated the president’s safe return to public events “at that time.”
Trump’s aides were weighing travel options for the president, including trips for small events next week. During a telephone interview with Fox Business, Trump said Thursday: “I think I’m better to the point where I’d love to do a rally tonight.” He also said “I don’t think I’m contagious at all.”
Since his return to the White House Monday evening, only a few staffers — and no reporters — have laid eyes on the president, who has announced updates to his condition via Twitter and a few online videos. His doctors haven’t held a press conference since Trump left the hospital, only releasing statements with limited information.
“We who are watching from the outside only have intimations, I’d even call them hints,” about Trump’s health and when he might not be contagious, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Earlier this week, the president’s doctors suggested they would work closely with military medical research facilities and other laboratories on “advanced diagnostic testing” to determine when the president was no longer contagious, but did not elaborate. They have not released any details about his test results, including when Trump last had a negative virus test before he got sick.