Happy Scribe
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Support for NPR and the following message come from Showtime, presenting Kingdom of Silence, a new documentary film focused on the twenty eighteen murder of a Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Kingdom of Silence premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. only on Showtime. Hey, there it is, the NPR Politics podcast. I'm Daniel Kurtzer. Even I cover politics. I'm Frank Cordona as I cover the White House. And I'm Joe Palca. I'm from the Science Desk.

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And it is 135 p.m. on Saturday, October 3rd. We are coming at you with a special update on the president's condition. He has been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a patient. And we got an update from his doctor today. Let's listen.

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At this time, the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made. Thursday, he had a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue, all of which are now resolving and improving.

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OK, so frankly, that was the president's physician, Sean Connelly, this morning briefing the press outside of Walter Reed about the president's condition. We also, though, heard from a White House official who said, quote, 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. We're still not on a clear path to a full recovery. So I feel a little whipsawed here. FRANCON Our listeners might, too.

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It feels like we're getting some mixed messages. So what do we know?

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Yeah, I mean, we really are getting a lot of mixed messages from Dr. Connelly and his team. They're talking about the president doing very well, that he's up, that he's talking about feeling like he can get out of there saying that that, you know, the mild conditions that he had, fever, cough has, you know, kind of all improved. On the other hand, immediately after the briefing, we heard from another source who is familiar with the president's health, that the president is not on a clear path to full recovery.

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So we're hearing very different things about the president's condition. This White House has often had big challenges delivering clear messages about, you know, issues of import. And this is another one. And it just creates a lot of uncertainty and, you know, a lot of fear about, you know, what is really going on and what is happening.

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And Franco, that confusion got worse later in the day, the doctor said this about the president's condition just 72 hours into the diagnosis now the first week of covid and in particular day seven to 10 of the most critical and determining the likely course of this illness.

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Now, 72 hours ago, that would have been Wednesday morning that the president got a positive test, which is earlier than we knew. But this afternoon, he walked that back, saying he meant today is, quote, day three of the diagnosis that came on Thursday.

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So, Joe, what do we know thus far about the president's treatment?

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Well, on Friday, the White House said that the president had received a experimental drug made by the company called Regeneron. It's a drug that's called a monoclonal antibody cocktail. Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic versions of the antibodies that we produce in our bodies when we fight off disease. And so these are intended to be helpful in and they're specifically designed for being infected with the sars-cov-2 that the coronavirus that causes covid-19. So they're supposed to help this medication hasn't been approved by the FDA or authorized by the FDA.

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But the company said that the president got it under what's called compassionate use. So they made a call and got this drug. The other thing that they've decided later in the day was after evaluating his condition a little further, that they decided to give him Ramdas severe render. Severe is not an experimental drug. It's been there has been some evidence to show that it's effective. And the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization so it can be used more or less broadly during this health emergency.

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But it's a drug that's given intravenously over a five day course, usually to patients who are hospitalized. And it's also an antiviral drug that's supposed to help prevent the virus from spreading inside somebody's body so that their immune system can do a better job or have an easier job of fighting it off.

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We've talked a little bit here about how this messaging has been mixed or at the very least confusing. The doctor was evasive in talking about whether or not the president had received oxygen therapy. And when, you know, as a person who covers this quite a bit, what can you tell us that you can glean from this about his condition?

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Well, you know, Francos right. There does seem to be some disconnect. I mean, if you think about it carefully, what the doctor said isn't totally at odds with what this background source said. The doctor said that this is a critical period in the course of this illness of seven to 10 days after symptoms first appear as when patients either start to get better and, you know, the disease resolves or they crash and get much worse. So he's not to the critical moment yet.

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But there were there were some very strange things. And again, a question of did the president require supplemental oxygen? Well, he doesn't have oxygen now. Yes, but did he needed any time to try to pin you down one more time?

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I know you said yeah, yeah, yeah. He's not on oxygen today and receive any on Thursday. And he's with us today. No, no. Thursday, no Thursday, Friday or Saturday. So that was why we were Thursday. No oxygen, none at this moment. Yeah. And yesterday with the team. Well, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen.

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There was a lot of lack of clarity which could have been just said, yes, he did and would win over with. But but by not just spelling it out, it made you think what's going on here?

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You know, what we're seeing here is that how people respond to this virus is very unpredictable. You know, this impacts people in different ways. Some people are impacted and it hits them very hard. Others it hits them so differently. The doctors are obviously trying to put forth a positive message. But there is another message being delivered. And the fact of those mixed message, I just think it raises so many questions and I think it raises a bit of a little bit a level of distrust that is concerning.

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So, Joe, final question. Knowing what day that the president is on is super important here. You mentioned that seven to 10 day range being the range that that's most critical. We know that a person's symptoms can change rapidly from one day to another. So tell us, you know, if he's doing well now, it sounds like that doesn't mean he's out of the woods, right?

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No, I think that's fair to say. And, you know, again, the people who tend to have the worst outcome in this in this illness are people, first of all, who are all over 65 or older. And second of all, have some other underlying health conditions. Well, the doctor said that he doesn't have high cholesterol and he doesn't have high blood pressure, but he is overweight. And that's one of the risk factors that tends to be associated with a poor outcome.

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So. Yes, everything could be fine in a few days or no, it might not be. And right now, you know, for an individual, you couldn't say as a population matter, he's not in the world's best population group to have a positive outcome. Right.

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OK, well, we've got a lot more to get through in terms of people around the president who have been infected. But first, let's take a quick break.

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This message comes from NPR sponsor the show Time Limited event series The Good Lord Bird, based on the award winning novel by James McBride. This epic pre civil war story centers on abolitionist John Brown and his holy crusade to end slavery. Brown forms an unexpected allegiance with a newly freed teenager on an odyssey that takes them on adventures both absurd and tragic. Ethan Hawke, David Diggs and Joshua Caleb Johnson, star in The Good Lord Bird, premiering October 4th only on Showtime.

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Right, Ambulante is NPR's only Spanish language podcast, listen, for stories you won't hear anywhere else told by the voices that make Latin America come alive. Each week we bring you another remarkable story that will surprise and move you Ambulante new episodes every Tuesday. Listen and subscribe. And we're back and I now want to talk about the ballooning number of cases among high profile Republicans who surround the president or have been around him, at least people like former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, also former presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, but also importantly Republican senators.

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Now, Mitch McConnell is saying he's delaying the Senate's return. So, frankly, let's start with you. What are the implications of this or what do we know about the implications regarding Amy CONI Barret's nomination to the Supreme Court? It's a big deal.

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There are a lot of questions about how this could impact her confirmation. You know, two Republican senators who are on the Judiciary Committee, Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, they have tested positive. They are at the ceremony where President Trump nominated Barrett for the Supreme Court. Now, Senator Lindsey Graham, who heads the Judiciary Committee, he says things will move forward, that these kind of hearings can happen over Zoome, over Skype, but he will need them back, he said, by about October 15th when the committee is supposed to start debating the nomination.

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So there are a lot of questions about what their health will be. Will they be healthy enough to come back and their sickness could, you know, kind of slow things down? Right.

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There is already a tight timeframe and this just makes it tighter, it sounds like. So let's also look ahead to debates, though, because we have this debate this week between Vice President Mike Pence and Joe Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, California Democratic senator. We should say they both have tested negative. In fact, this morning, Vice President Pence tested negative for a second time. But, Joe, let's start with you. You know, if Mike Pence has been around the president, do we know is there a sort of safe window of time beyond which we can say, yes, he is not infected?

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Well, obviously, he's not going to be infected by the president. Now, has the president's in the hospital? Right. But there is a period of time between Wednesday when his symptoms started to appear and even before that, where he could conceivably have been what they say, shedding virus, putting off viral particles just from his normal speech or if he happened to sneeze or cough or something like that. So it's possible the vice president was exposed to the president's illness.

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And if the president infected other people in the White House that didn't have symptoms yet but were infected or haven't been tested yet, they could have done it. So it raises this whole set of questions. And it's just going to be, well, I don't know, four, five, six, seven, eight days before people can say with certainty that they're in the clear.

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Well, and furthermore, now that we know roughly when the president started feeling sick, I mean, do we have any sense of when he might no longer be contagious? I mean, can he do any more in-person events before the election?

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Oh, yes, I think he can for sure. If he if his symptoms resolve. And that could happen. Usually they say there's a certain time period after the last fever day, a fever and two negative tests in a row will be enough to prove that he's not infectious to anyone. The question is, you know, when does this when does this illness end and how he still going to be feeling? Because a lot of people who have this virus, even not even a case that requires hospitalization, say that they feel wiped out for quite a bit of time afterwards.

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Hmm. OK, well, we're going to leave it there for now. The only thing that is clear right now is really that nothing is really clear, but we will be back daily or more as we learn more. Joe, thank you so much for coming on. You're welcome. I'm Daniel Kurt Slavin. I cover politics. I'm Frank Cordona as I cover the White House. And thank you for listening to the NPR Politics podcast.