Speed Reads

COVID in the White House

Trump's tweeting has been unusually erratic, and even some aides question if it's the COVID drugs

President Trump, quarantined with COVID-19 in the White House residence and reportedly badgering staff to let him return to the Oval Office, was unusually active on Twitter late into Tuesday night, tweeting and retweeting dozens of times about Hillary Clinton and Russia, even moving markets by ending coronavirus stimulus negotiations — before apparently reversing himself hours later.

Observers, many of them critical of Trump, were frankly flummoxed.

There was one frequently suggested explanation, though: Is Trump juiced on steroids?

Speculation also swirled inside the eerily empty White House, where some staff members wondered whether "Trump's behavior was spurred by a cocktail of drugs he has been taking to treat the coronavirus, including dexamethasone, a steroid that can cause mood swings and can give a false level of energy and a sense of euphoria," The New York Times reports.

The revelation Sunday that Trump was being treated with dexamethasone immediately raised red flags among medial experts, in part because it suggested Trump's condition was worse than the nebulously upbeat assessments from White House physician Sean Conley, but also because of the "concerning side effects, ranging from blood clots, blurred vision, and headaches to 'psychic derangements,' such as insomnia, mood swings, and 'frank psychotic manifestations,'" The Washington Post notes, citing the drug label.

Dexamethasone's side effects also include "grandiose delusions," New York notes, but pulmonologist Dr. Bryan McVerry, who co-authored a recent study on steroid treatments for COVID-19 patients, said "increased energy" is more typical. Asked if Trump's "erratic" tweeting could be a side effect, McVerry told New York it's not clear if Trump is still on dexamethasone, but "getting doses of steroids can certainly sort of activate you and energize you, so to the extent that he's feeling better and activated and energized as a result of that, I suppose it's possible."

Whatever the cause, the Post reports, "several former administration officials said they were appalled at the president's conduct over the past few days," one of them describing Trump's decision to leave the hospital for a drive-by of supporters "so monstrously wrong," probably "the most appalling thing I've seen a president do for a political stunt," and "genuinely unhinged."