Trump, who has a highly contagious infectious disease, left Walter Reed to pay a ‘surprise visit’ to cheering fans outside the hospital

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A car with US President Donald Trump driving past supporters in a motorcade outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, on Sunday. ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump made a surprise temporary departure from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre on Sunday evening.
  • Footage on CNN of the scene just outside the medical-centre grounds showed Trump seated in the back of a black SUV, wearing a mask and a suit, waving to cheering supporters.
  • Trump announced he was leaving the hospital in a video posted just moments before his motorcade was seen outside the medical centre.
  • In a video posted online, he said he was going to “pay a little surprise visit to some of the patriots we have out on the street.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump made a surprise departure from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre on Sunday evening, during which he was shown driving by cheering crowds of supporters.

CNN footage of the scene just outside the medical centre’s grounds showed Trump seated in the back of a black car, wearing a mask and a suit, waving to supporters. He ultimately returned to the hospital.

Dr. James Phillips, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University who is also an attending physician at Walter Reed, balked at Trump’s sitting in close quarters in the presidential SUV while infected with the coronavirus.

“That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack,” Phillips wrote on Twitter. “The risk of COVID19 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.”

Phillips also criticised what he described as a “political theatre” stunt that meant everyone in the car with Trump should quarantine.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” Phillips wrote. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.”

A spokesperson for the White House defended Trump’s drive-by in a statement to Business Insider, noting that Dr. Phillips is not one of the president’s doctors.

In the latest update on the timeline for Trump’s recovery, White House physicians told reporters on Sunday morning that the president was feeling better and that they hoped he could be discharged as soon as Monday.

Trump announced he was leaving the hospital in a video posted just moments before his motorcade was seen outside the medical centre.

In the video, he thanked the hospital staff and said he was going to “pay a little surprise visit to some of the patriots we have out on the street.”

“They have been out there for a long time, and they have got Trump flags, and they love our country,” Trump said in the video. “I’m not telling anybody but you, but I’m about to make a little surprise visit. Perhaps I’ll get there before you get to see me.”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1312864232711520257?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

Trump also remarked on his time since publicly revealing he tested positive for the coronavirus and being admitted to the medical centre for treatment, which he said had “been a very interesting journey.”

“I learned a lot about COVID,” he said. “I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the ‘let’s read the book’ school. 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.”

Since Trump’s diagnosis was made public early last Friday, representatives from the administration, campaign, and the hospital have issued contradictory statements on the president’s condition and treatment.

Business Insider’s Connor Perrett previously reported that the White House physician, Sean Conley, acknowledged at a Sunday press briefing that Trump was given supplemental oxygen on Saturday, which he dodged questions about from reporters one day earlier.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had,” Conley said.

After the White House initially insisted that Trump was admitted to the hospital only “out of an abundance of caution,” the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, on Saturday morning said Trump experienced a “very concerning” period on Friday when his blood-oxygen level dropped and he developed a high fever,the Associated Press reported. After those symptoms, Meadows said Trump was facing a “critical” 48-hour period in his recovery.