Donald Trump's surprise trip to greet of supporters outside Walter Reed Medical Centre on Sunday sparked outrage, with claims the unannounced presidential motorcade was putting lives at risk and adding to public confusion about his health.
Dr James P Phillips, a CNN media contributor and an attending physician at the Maryland hospital, attacked the president's political theatre as "insanity".
"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," Dr Phillips said in a tweet.
"The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."
Photos from the event Mr Trump wearing a cloth mask, while the driver and other passengers, thought to be Secret Service members, wore full personal protective equipment including gowns, more robust masks and goggles.
Leaving the hospital may also have violated public coronavirus guidance for Maryland, which says people with Covid-19 should self-isolate to reduce the spread.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," Dr Phillips said. "They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
Dr Phillips is a regular contributor for CNN, appearing as an expert on its broadcasts and writing opinion pieces for its website, including a column saying he will likely become infected with coronavirus but, as a physician, "it's just simple math that I have accepted."
Mr Trump made what he called the “surprise visit” after sharing a video update of his condition, where he hinted he would be making the drive-by to thank the patriotic Americans that have been keeping a weekend vigil.
"It's been a very interesting journey, I learned a lot about Covid, I learned it by really going to school, this is the real school, this isn't the let's-read-the-book school. And I get it and I understand it, and it's a very interesting thing and I'm going to be letting you know about it," Mr Trump said in the video.
White House Correspondents Association president, Zeke Miller, meanwhile, said the unannounced drive-by left the public in the dark about the president’s health.
"It is outrageous for the president to have left the hospital, even briefly, amid a health crisis and without a protective pool present to ensure that the American people know where their president is and how he is doing," he said.
Confusion over Mr Trump’s true condition has swirled over the past two days thanks to contradictory statements given by his medical team. The doctors are now facing calls to be straightforward and transparent with Americans about their president’s health.
Asked for more detail on the drive-by, White House spokesperson Judd Deere said: "President Trump took a short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters outside and has now returned to the presidential suite inside Walter Reed."
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