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White House physician Sean Conley said at a press briefing Sunday that President Trump experienced two "transient" episodes in which his oxygen saturation level dropped below 94% and that he received supplemental oxygen on Friday after registering a "high fever."

Why it matters: Conley repeatedly evaded questions at Saturday's press briefing about whether Trump had received oxygen and insisted that the president was doing "extremely well."

Pressed by Axios' Alayna Treene on Sunday, Conley said he was "trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, his course of illness has had."

  • "I didn't want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn't necessarily true," Conley said.
  • White House communications director Alyssa Farah said later Sunday that Conley evaded questions at Saturday's press briefing in order to "convey confidence" and "raise the spirits" of the president.

The big picture: Conley and the White House have come under intense criticism after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows provided an anonymous statement to reporters saying that Trump had a "very concerning" period on Friday, contradicting Conley's more rosy assessment.

  • Conley was also forced to walk back a statement on Saturday that Trump was "72 hours into the diagnosis," which would have meant he tested positive on Wednesday — 36 hours before the president notified the public of his diagnosis via tweet.

The state of play: Conley said that following a drop in oxygen levels on Saturday, Trump is now receiving dexamethasone — a steroid that has been found to significantly reduce the risk of death among patients who are on a ventilator and provide more limited benefit for patients who are on supplemental oxygen. Overall, the president's condition has "continued to improve," Conley said.

What to watch: Brian Garibaldi, a Johns Hopkins University doctor assisting in Trump's treatment, said that the president could be discharged to the White House to continue his treatment course as early as Monday.

Go deeper

Biden receives second dose of COVID-19 vaccine

President-elect Joe Biden publicly received his second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Monday in Newark, Delaware.

Why it matters: Biden's effort to bolster public confidence in the vaccine, which has been found by the FDA to be safe and 95% effective, comes after an alarming number of Americans polled in December said they would reject a vaccine.

Jan 12, 2021 - Health

WHO warns world won't achieve coronavirus herd immunity in 2021

World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned Monday herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved this year despite COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out.

The big picture: Mass coronavirus vaccinations are under way in the U.S. and across the world. Moderna said Monday its vaccine would provide immunity against the virus for at least a year. But Swaminathan told a briefing even if immunity "happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world" in 2021. "It takes time to scale the production of doses," she said.

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