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White House readies Oval Office for Trump return, just days after COVID diagnosis

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Washington — In the wake of President Trump's discharge from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center early this week, the White House is making preparations for the president to return to work in the Oval Office as early as Wednesday, just days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday that Mr. Trump had wanted to be in the Oval Office on Tuesday, and safety preparations are underway in the event he moves from the residence to the West Wing.

"He continues to work," Meadows said. "We've got a number of safety protocols with full PPE, masks, goggles and the like for any direct interaction with the president in those areas."

Meadow added that ventilation is also being addressed for when the president returns to the West Wing. The president is expected to return to the Oval Office as soon as Wednesday, senior administration officials said, and so-called "isolation carts" with personal protective equipment are being set up with gowns, masks, and goggles. Staff are expected to wear them if they are going to come within six feet of the president.

Officials also said the president recorded a video inside the White House on Tuesday that has yet to be released, but could come out later in the day.

The White House had been exploring the use of the Diplomatic Reception Room and Map Room for Mr. Trump to work and make television appearances, a senior administration official told CBS News on Tuesday. Both rooms are on the ground floor of the residence and close to the White House Medical Unit.

Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday after one of the president's closest aides, Hope Hicks, contracted the virus last week. Since then, more than a dozen people close to the president, including a number of White House aides and three GOP senators, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Among those who have been diagnosed COVID-19 and were in close contact with Mr. Trump are press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior adviser Stephen Miller, personal aide Nick Luna and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien.

The president was admitted to Walter Reed in Maryland on Friday after he experienced a high fever and a drop in his oxygen saturation level. He received supplemental oxygen for roughly an hour before being transferred to Walter Reed, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said Saturday. 

In the course of his treatment, Mr. Trump was given a dose of dexamethasone, a steroid, and received remdesivir, the fifth and final dose of which he received Tuesday. The president was discharged from Walter Reed on Monday evening.

"The president continues to work, he's in very good health," Meadows said. "We're pleased with his progress."

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states a person with mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms may be infectious for up to 10 days after the onset of symptoms. A small fraction of patients with severe cases may be contagious for up to 20 days.

Mr. Trump's return to the White House when he was still contagious raised questions as to whether the president should return to the West Wing and how White House staff were going to be protected from contracting the virus.

On Wednesday morning, Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump's top economic adviser, told CNBC the president did work in the Oval Office on Tuesday. "The president actually showed up in the Oval Office yesterday with extra precautions with respect to his COVID-19, and he is getting a lot better. He's much stronger. So there was some limited activity," Kudlow said.

But Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman, said Kudlow was incorrect.

"While the president wanted to be in the Oval Office yesterday, he was not there—he stayed back in the residence working from there. Safety preparations have been underway in the event he moves to working out of the Oval in the coming days," Williamson tweeted.

Meadows said he will receive an update from Conley on Mr. Trump's health Wednesday. The White House physician said the president reported experiencing no symptoms from the coronavirus Tuesday.

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