Trump and coronavirus: Viral picture shows White House chief of staff rubbing his head during president’s health briefing

The Reuters picture comes from Dr Sean Conley’s press briefing on Sunday

Doctor defends decision to give misleading statement on whether Tump had received oxygen

A picture has gone viral of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reacting as Donald Trump’s physicians spoke about the president’s condition after he was hospitalised for Covid-19.

Reuters photographer Erin Scott captured Mr Meadows rubbing his head as Dr Sean Conley, the president’s personal physician, updated the media on Sunday about Mr Trump’s health since he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.

The photo was then shared by Corrine Perkins, the North America editor of Reuters Pictures, on Twitter before it spread among other members of the press and Twitter users.

People commented that the picture was worth “1,000 words” and it was unlikely Mr Meadows had slept since Thursday, the day it was revealed Mr Trump tested positive for the novel virus.

Mr Meadows was in hot water, though, after it was revealed he was the White House staffer who told the press on Saturday that the president’s “vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.”

His comments, which he made on-background to reporters on a phone call, starkly contrasted Dr Conley’s statements on Saturday claiming Mr Trump was “doing well”.

The chief of staff was revealed as the source of reports after an online video showed Mr Meadows briefing the press over the phone following Dr Conley’s press conference on Saturday.

When speaking to Fox News, Mr Meadows attempted to walk back what he said about the president’s health.

“He is doing extremely well. In fact, I'm very, very optimistic, based on the current results,” Mr Meadows said.

He did confirm the president’s oxygen levels “dropped rapidly” on Friday, causing concern among the physicians.

“And as the doctor said, he's not out of the woods. The next 48 hours or so, with the history of this virus, we know, can be tough. But he's made unbelievable improvements from yesterday morning, when I know a number of us, the doctor and I, were very concerned,” Mr Meadows said.

Mr Trump was reportedly furious at his chief of staff for heightening concerns about his health among the public. On Sunday, in what appears to be in an effort to show strength, the president rode in a car around the medical centre with his Secret Service agents to wave at supporters.

The White House has indicated the president could leave the medical centre as early as Monday afternoon depending on how an assessment with Dr Conley and other physicians goes.

“Spoke to the president this morning,” Mr Meadows said in a statement to Fox News. “He continued to improve overnight and is ready to get back to a normal working schedule.”

He added the president “will meet with his doctors and nurses this morning to make further assessments of his progress."

“We are still optimistic that he will be able to return to the White House later today, with his medical professionals making that determination later today," the statement concluded.

Questions about the president’s health have circulated since he went to the hospital on Friday.

Mr Trump’s oxygen levels  dropped twice and he had a “high fever” on Friday, Dr Conley said. Physicians have also put the president on a drug often used for patients with serious cases of Covid-19, yet the White House has maintained the president was in good health.

Another update about his health was expected later on Monday. 

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