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White House communications director Alyssa Farah said Sunday that White House physician Sean Conley withheld specific details at Saturday's press briefing about Donald Trump's medical condition in order to "convey confidence" and "raise the spirits" of the president.

Driving the news: Conley and the White House have come under intense criticism after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows provided an anonymous statement to reporters on Saturday saying that Trump had a "very concerning" period on Friday, contradicting the more rosy assessment Conley had provided in a television briefing just moments earlier.

  • Pressed by Axios' Alayna Treene at a briefing earlier 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 added.

What she's saying: Farah appeared to echoed Conley's statement, telling Fox News that it is "a common medical practice that you want to convey confidence, and you want to raise the spirits of the person you’re treating."

  • "I know this president, I don’t know that he needs his spirits raised, but I think actually it’s a very common medical practice to do that. So if anything, the doctor was giving a really strong and confident viewpoint," Farah said
  • "We’re committed to being transparent with the public, but what I’ve learned in these moments is that accuracy is in fact more important than speed."
  • “We’d rather get you the fully accurate, full-picture information, rather than rush out the door with facts when we don’t necessarily have all of that."

Farah later told reporters that Meadows' anonymous statement contradicting Conley was intended to "give you guys more information just to try to be as transparent as we can."

The bottom line: Conley admitted Sunday that 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."

  • Conley added 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.

Go deeper: The media’s 2020 moment

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.

Updated 18 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull — Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies— Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker