BETHESDA, Md. - An attending physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center slammed President Donald Trump’s decision to venture out in a motorcade on Sunday and wave at supporters who had gathered outside the hospital during his stay for treatment of COVID-19.
The still-infectious president surprised supporters, driving by in a black SUV with the windows rolled up — a brief outing that disregarded precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Secret Service agents inside the vehicle could be seen in masks and other protective gear.
Dr. James Phillips, an attending physician at the hospital and critic of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, called the move “insanity.”
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” Phillips wrote on Twitter. “They might get sick. They may die.”
“For political theater,” he added. “Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
Phillips, who is also the head of disaster medicine at the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine, noted a higher risk of spread within the presidential motorcade.
“That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. 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 added.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump’s trip outside the hospital “was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”
Deere added that precautions were taken, including using personal protective equipment, to protect Trump as well as White House officials and Secret Service agents.
Trump tweeted earlier Monday that he would be leaving the military hospital following a three-day stay for COVID-19 symptoms and continue his recovery at the White House.
The scale of the outbreak within the White House itself was still being uncovered, as press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced she tested positive for the virus Monday morning and was entering quarantine. First lady Melania Trump has remained at the White House as she also recovers from the virus.
Nearly 210,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and more than 7 million have been infected, according to data compiled Oct. 5 by Johns Hopkins University.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.