US President Donald Trump got immediate criticism from doctors for his "insane" surprise drive-by visit to supporters outside the Walter Reed military medical center, where the president is being treated for an infection of Covid-19.
James Phillips, who is doctor of emergency medicine at George Washington University and currently an attending physician at Walter Reed called the stunt "insanity", reports The Guardian.
At least two other people, probably Secret Service agents, wearing respirators and eye protection, were seen on video in the vehicle accompanying Trump, who was also masked, during the short drive.
"Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die," James wrote in a tweet.
"For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity."
In a second tweet, Phillips added: "That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."
Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University school of medicine and health services, said in a tweet: "By taking a joy ride outside Walter Reed the president is placing his Secret Service detail at grave risk."
"In the hospital when we go into close contact with a Covid patient we dress in full PPE: Gown, gloves, N95, eye protection, hat. This is the height of irresponsibility."
NBC pointed out that a White House official told them Melania Trump would not leave her residence to visit her husband because: "That would expose the agents who would drive her there and the medical staff who would walk her up to him."
Trump signalled his intention to visit his flag-waving supporters in a video tweet of his own, released only moments before a cavalcade of black SUVs drove through the gates of the Maryland medical center. Trump was seen waving animatedly through a fully-closed window, before the vehicles doubled back into the hospital grounds.
"This is the real school," Trump said in the video, describing his experience with Covid-19, and his second full day at Walter Reed after being admitted on Friday. "I get it and understand it. [It is] a very interesting thing and I'm going to be letting you know about it."
Questions also arose about who in the White House knew of or authorized the stunt. Reporters in the White House press pool had been told there would be no more presidential activity on Sunday.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the drive had been "cleared by the medical team as safe" and that "appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE."
Shortly after the drive, the White House published Trump's schedule for Monday. It states: "The president has no public events scheduled".
James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, said on CNN that the moment was "pure Trump".
"The president [is] always a showman and concerned about the optics," he said. "Let's hope this comports with his rate of improvement."
Clapper added: "This will be of great interest to foreign countries, friends and adversaries alike. At least temporarily this is a good message."
Fox Business Network journalist Lou Dobbs tweeted shortly after the drive that Trump was "A bad patient, but a great leader."
As recently as Friday, Secret Service agents were expressing their anger at how Trump's perceived recklessness was placing them at risk.
"He's never cared about us," one agent told a confidant, according to the Washington Post.
The newspaper said some agents had become convinced in recent months that the president was oblivious to them being in harm's way, citing as evidence a policy that agents on duty at Trump rallies were no longer routinely being tested when they returned home.