(CNN)Former President Donald Trump's condition after testing positive for Covid-19 became so concerning last October that there was talk of putting him on a ventilator, according to what Trump told one person at the time. The detail raises questions about whether the former President's condition was worse than officials were willing to publicly acknowledge, a development first reported in detail by The New York Times on Thursday. CNN reported in October that when Trump was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he not only had trouble breathing, but had received supplemental oxygen. Trump "definitely has had oxygen," the source with knowledge told CNN.
The former President's physician, Dr. Sean Conley, waffled on the issue at the time, saying Trump "is not on oxygen right now." When he was asked if Trump had received it at all, Conley would not directly answer, saying, "He has not needed any this morning, today at all." Asked if he had ever been on supplemental oxygen as part of his Covid-19 treatment, Conley said, "Right now he is not," adding, "Yesterday and today, he was not on oxygen." The New York Times also reported that Trump was found to have lung infiltrates, "which occur when the lungs are inflamed and contain substances such as fluid or bacteria. Their presence, especially when a patient is exhibiting other symptoms, can be a sign of an acute case of the disease. They can be easily spotted on an X-ray or scan, when parts of the lungs appear opaque, or white."
The Times added that Trump's oxygen level dipped into the 80s. Conley was repeatedly evasive with reporters about his condition and whether he was on given oxygen, only telling reporters once his levels had recovered that they had never been in the "low 80s." Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said Conley's failure to disclose the facts was disturbing. "It's disturbing because I felt like Dr. Conley at that time was clearly being evasive and deceptive," Jha told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. "It would have been much better if Dr. Conley and the White House had just been transparent and open with the American people as opposed to the stuff that we heard from them. So that of course was very disappointing. ... It's all very harrowing," Jha said. Mark Meadows, who was Trump's White House chief of staff, had gathered reporters following a rosy medical briefing delivered by Conley and told them privately, "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 are still not on a clear path to a full recovery."
As for the former first lady's condition, someone familiar with Melania Trump's treatment said she never took the then-experimental Regeneron antibody therapy used to treat her husband. This person said it took "a very, very long time" for her to get better, but she insisted on letting the virus run its course and treated her symptoms with holistic medicines, such as herbal teas, and took nothing stronger than over-the-counter pain relievers. This story has been updated with comments from Dr. Ashish Jha. CNN's Kate Bennett and Andrea Diaz contributed to this report.
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