Oct 5, 2020 - Health

White House physician refuses to answer when Trump last tested negative

White House physician Sean Conley refused to answer questions at a press briefing Monday about when President Trump last tested negative for COVID-19 or what his lung scans have shown, citing the medical privacy law HIPAA.

Why it matters: Conley's credibility has been called into question after he acknowledged withholding information from the press about Trump receiving supplemental oxygen on Friday.

  • Conley was also forced to walk back details surrounding the timeline of Trump's diagnosis on Saturday, and he had his optimistic assessment of the president's condition undermined by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows via an anonymous statement to the press corps.
  • White House communications director Alyssa Farah said Sunday that Conley withheld specific details and painted a more rosy outlook in order to "convey confidence" and "raise the spirits" of the president.

Driving the news: Asked when Trump last tested negative, Conley said that he doesn't want to "go backwards" and that "contact tracing, as I understand it, is being done. I'm not involved with that." Conley also declined to go into detail about how Trump will be able to safely quarantine at the White House.

Key exchange:

REPORTER: "Does the president have pneumonia or any inflammation in his lungs at all?"
CONLEY: "We've done routine standard imaging. I'm just not at liberty to discuss." 
REPORTER: "You're actively not telling us what those lung scans showed, just to be clear?"
CONLEY: "There are HIPAA rules and regulations that restrict me in sharing certain things for his safety and his own health and reasons."

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