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Trump said to be improving but next 48 hours 'critical'

BETHESDA, Md. – President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period Friday and faces a “critical” next two days in his fight against COVID-19 at a military hospital, his chief of staff said Saturday – in contrast to a rosier assessment moments earlier by Trump doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.

Trump offered his own assessment Saturday evening in a video from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.”

Hours earlier, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update on the president Saturday night, his chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.

Moreover, the president’s health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the U.S. government but to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Saturday’s briefing by Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley and other doctors raised more questions than it answered. Conley repeatedly refused to say whether the president ever needed supplemental oxygen, despite repeated questioning, and declined to share key details including how high a fever Trump had been running before it came back down to a normal range. Conley also revealed that Trump had begun exhibiting “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, earlier than previously known.

Conley spent much of the briefing dodging reporters’ questions, as he was pressed for details.

“Thursday no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Conley said.

But according to a person familiar with Trump’s condition, Trump was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday morning, well before he was transported to the military hospital by helicopter that evening. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity,

Conley said that Trump’s symptoms, including a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue “are now resolving and improving,” and said the president had been fever-free for 24 hours. But Trump also is taking aspirin, which lowers body temperature and could mask or mitigate that symptom.

“He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” said another doctor, Sean Dooley, who said Trump’s heart, kidney, and liver functions were normal and that he was not having trouble breathing or walking around.

In an evening health update, Conley said Trump had been up and moving around his medical suite without difficulty and conducting business. “While not yet out of the woods, the team remains cautiously optimistic,” he said.

In the hospital video, Trump defended his decision to continue campaigning and holding large events in the midst of a pandemic.

“I had no choice,” said Trump, who refused to abide by basic public health recommendations, including mask-wearing. “I had to be out front ... I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe. ... As a leader, you have to confront problems.”

Trump also thanked his medical team and hailed the state-of-the-art treatments he was receiving, comparing them to “miracles coming down from God.” Trump’s medical care is far superior to the average American’s, with around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments.

The president was angry at Meadows’ public assessment of his health and, in an effort to prove his vitality, Trump ordered up the video and authorized longtime confidant Rudy Giuliani to release a statement on his behalf that he was feeling well, according to a Republican close to the White House not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide and killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.

First lady Melania Trump remained at the White House to recover from her own bout with the virus. She was “really handling it very nicely,” Trump said in the video, noting with a touch of humor that she was “just a little tiny bit younger” – in fact, 24 years younger.

Meadows himself had insisted Friday morning that Trump had only “mild symptoms” as the White House tried to project an image of normalcy. It was unclear whether Trump already had received oxygen when Meadows spoke.

“President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms and has been working throughout the day,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said late in the day on Friday. She said Trump had only been sent to Walter Reed as a precaution.

Trump’s administration has been less than transparent with the public throughout the pandemic, both about the president’s health and the virus’ spread inside the White House. The first word that a close aide to Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. And aides have repeatedly declined to share basic health information, including a full accounting of the president’s symptoms, what tests he’s undertaken and the results.

In a memo released late Friday, Conley did report that Trump had been treated at the hospital with remdesivir, an antiviral medication, after sharing that he’d taking another experimental drug at the White House.

Conley declined to say when Trump had last been tested before he was confirmed to have COVID-19 late Thursday. He initially suggested that Trump was 72 hours into the diagnosis – which would mean that he was confirmed infected Wednesday. Conley later clarified that Trump was administered an accurate test for the virus on Thursday afternoon, after White House aide Hope Hicks was confirmed to be positive and Trump exhibited “clinical indications” of the virus.

The White House has said Trump was expected to stay at the hospital for “a few days” and would continue to work from its presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties. In addition to accessibility to tests and equipment, the decision to move to the hospital on Friday was made, at least in part, with the understanding that hurrying there later could send a worrying signal if he took a turn for the worse.

On Saturday, Conley said Trump’s blood oxygen level was 96%, which is in the normal range. The two experimental drugs he has received, given through an IV, have shown some promise against COVID-19. On Friday, he was given a single dose of a drug Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing to supply antibodies to help his immune system fight the virus.

Friday night, he began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways – the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus and remdesivir curbs the virus’ ability to multiply.

“We’re maximizing all aspects of his care,” attacking the virus in multiple ways, Conley said. “I didn’t want to hold anything back if there was any possibility it would add value to his care.”

He noted that in many cases, COVID-19 can become more dangerous as the body responds. “The first week of COVID, and in particular day seven to 10, are the most critical in determining the likely course of this illness,” he said.

At the same time, the White House has been working to trace a flurry of new infections of close Trump aides and allies. Attention is focused in particular on last Saturday’s White House event introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. That day, Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands – overwhelmingly without masks. There were also several indoor receptions, where Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others spent time in the close quarters of the White House, photographs show.

Among those who attended and have now tested positive: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame, and at least two Republican lawmakers – Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. The president’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and the head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, have also tested positive, though they were not at the event.

Despite its failure to protect the president and senior staff from infection, the White House has given no indication that it intends to make any major protocol changes, such as mandating that everyone wears a mask.

Meadows, the chief of staff, accompanied the president to the hospital aboard Marine One, the kind of small, enclosed space where experts say the virus easily spreads. Those aboard did wear masks.

While Vice President Mike Pence is currently off the campaign trail preparing for the coming week’s vice presidential debate, he and his staff are operating under a “business as usual” approach. He’s still planning to travel to Arizona on Thursday, Indiana on Friday and Florida on Saturday for events instead of isolating himself after potential exposure and to protect himself from contracting the virus anywhere else.


Colvin and Miller reported from Washington. Associated Press chief medical writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

Eric Franklin of Gallatin, Tenn., portraying a German lieutenant, fires blanks at Allied forces with an MP40 submachine gun during the “Operation Anvil” World War II reenactment Saturday at Phil Moore Park. The reenactment shared the history of how U.S. and Allied forces liberated southern France from Nazi Germany in 1944. For additional photos, go to bgdailynews.com.

More than 100 participate in WWII reenactment

The tanks and infantry soldiers presented an imposing display of firepower as they rolled across the field Saturday at Phil Moore Park, overwhelming their outgunned opposition.

Spectators were treated to a piece of living history at the park with a reenactment of a battle from “Operation Anvil,” one of the most successful Allied campaigns from World War II.

Operation Anvil was waged in southern France in 1944 over a month, with U.S. and Allied forces inflicting heavy casualties on German troops and liberating that part of the country from Nazi occupation.

A total of 128 reenactors from different states came to Bowling Green to stage the battle, an event organized by the Honoring our Heroes nonprofit organization.

“We want to give people an idea of what life on the battlefield would have been like,” said Ron Cummings, executive director of Honoring our Heroes. “If you forget your history, you’re doomed to repeat it.”

This is the second year for the event, which in addition to the two mock battles featured a recognition of military veterans in attendance – including four World War II veterans – and displays of military hardware.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the complexion of the event this year.

Unlike last year, no bleacher seats were available for spectators, organizers worked to keep the attendance below 600 for each battle and social distancing and mask-wearing were encouraged.

Even with those limitations in place, the people taking part in the reenactments were grateful to be able to don their uniforms.

Corey Vaughn, a reenactor with G Company 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division from Louisville, said the pandemic has largely wiped out this year’s schedule of events for his organization.

Between battles in which he supplied mortar fire for his unit, Vaughn showed attendees World War II-era grenades, meal rations and other artifacts and explained their significance.

Vaughn’s grandfather and great-uncle served in the Navy during World War II, and the self-described “history nerd” has been taking part in reenactments for 12 years, relying on soldiers’ memoirs, training manuals and other sources to create an authentic experience.

“If I can show one person what sacrifices were made for what we have now, I’ve done my job,” Vaughn said.

Chris Ruckel, of Kansas City, participated as a member of Leibstandarte German Panzer Division reenactment unit.

In the mock battle, Ruckel drove a motorcycle with a sidecar, performing reconaissance work to try to learn the Americans’ strategy.

Ruckel has taken part in reenactments for the past eight years, and said an appreciation of history drew him into the hobby, which has taken him to several states.

“We think of it as, if you were a young German you wanted to join the best of the best,” Ruckel said. “For us, it’s not about the political side of things. ... We know we’re portraying the bad guys, but we’re trying to tell a story with two sides. We want to save history and preserve it so that it never happens again.”

Will McBride of Centerville, Tenn., prepares to fire blank rounds on German soldiers during the “Operation Anvil” World War II reenactment.

After 'turbulent year,' local refugee arrivals dwindle

Before the coronavirus raced around the world earlier this year, Bowling Green’s refugee resettlement agency set an optimistic goal.

The International Center of Kentucky planned to welcome 400 arrivals this year. However, as the number of COVID-19 cases climbed around the world in March and a temporary pause was placed on refugee admissions into the U.S., International Center Executive Director Albert Mbanfu’s hopes dimmed. At the time, Mbanfu expected the center to resettle fewer than half of the refugees it did in 2019.

On Wednesday, the final day of the agency’s fiscal year, Mbanfu met online with community resettlement partners to brief them on how the center did. He was correct: the center had welcomed just 157 arrivals by fiscal year-end, down from 440 the year before.

“It’s been a turbulent year,” Mbanfu told the Daily News on Thursday. “We’ve been working with no clearcut directions and expectations.”

Early in the pandemic, Mbanfu said Bowling Green’s refugee community saw a high positivity rate – which he attributed to the center’s “aggressive” testing regime.

Many refugees underwent quarantines, Mbanfu said, adding that the center’s employees helped with shopping and collecting supplies. The agency distributed packages to more than 150 families, he said. It also tapped community representatives with certain refugee populations to help raise awareness about the virus threat, Mbanfu said.

“Of late, we don’t have any issue in the community,” Mbanfu said.

For the year ahead, President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed slashing the ceiling on refugee arrivals to 15,000, a new historic low for the nation’s resettlement program, according to the Associated Press.

Mbanfu isn’t surprised by the news.

“That doesn’t raise my blood pressure anymore,” he said. “We’re not expecting much from the administration anyway.”

The proposal is next slated for review by lawmakers in Congress, where there are strong objections to the cuts, but no real power to push for changes, the Associated Press reported.

Mbanfu also doesn’t believe the U.S. will come close to resettling 15,000 refugees in the year ahead. The country welcomed 10,800 refugees this year, substantially lower than the 18,000 cap the Trump administration set for 2020.

It’s in line with the administration’s efforts to drastically curb both legal and illegal immigration; since taking office, Trump has cut allowed refugee admissions by more than 80%, the Associated Press reported.

“It’s just a blow, a blow to the program,” Mbanfu said.

Regardless of what 2021 holds for Bowling Green’s International Center, Mbanfu insisted it will remain open to serve clients.

“We will remain open. We will serve those who are here,” Mbanfu said. “This center is going nowhere.”

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, protesters march in Louisville, Ky. Hours of material in the grand jury proceedings for Taylor’s fatal shooting by police have been made public on Friday, Oct. 2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Proposed fire station at Jody Richards Elementary gets rezoning approval

One of the fastest-growing areas of Warren County could soon be adding another development, one that can provide quicker response times in case of fire or other emergency.

The City-County Planning Commission of Warren County, meeting by video conference, gave its unanimous approval Thursday evening to a rezoning request that is expected to lead to a new fire station and tornado shelter being built on the campus of Jody Richards Elementary School at 2100 Elrod Road.

The commissioners voted 11-0 to approve rezoning a 0.95-acre tract at the corner of Elrod Road and Beaumont Drive from Planned Unit Development to Public.

The rezoning will go to Warren Fiscal Court for final approval.

Bob Skipper, chief of the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department, said the proposed station and safe room are needed to expand the department’s coverage.

“From a logistics standpoint, this station will give us maximum coverage of our district,” Skipper said.

The area of the county covered by the Woodburn VFD has seen explosive residential growth in recent years, with development of the Ivan Downs and Belle Haven subdivisions and the Stagner Farms development now in the works near the elementary school.

Skipper explained that some areas of the Woodburn VFD district are farther than five miles from either of the department’s two existing stations. Having a station that reaches new developments along Elrod Road can help those residents find better rates on home insurance as the area’s ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating improves.

Development plans call for the parcel that is now home to a soccer field, a volleyball area and some playground equipment to eventually be used for a fire station with either two or three bays and a 4,800-square-foot safe room.

Those plans have been in the works for a while, and Skipper said he looked at other sites before deciding on the Elrod Road parcel.

“The other property we looked at was just too expensive,” Skipper said. “This site will serve a dual purpose. The school district agreed to give us a small piece of property that will allow us to cover a greater area, and it will give the school access to the safe room.”

Skipper also considered another piece of the 23-acre Jody Richards Elementary campus, a 1.27-acre portion that was not adjacent to Elrod Road and would have required emergency vehicles to use the school’s bus loop.

“This (fire station) was originally proposed for a site to the north of this site,” said Tad Pardue, an attorney representing Warren County Public Schools. “We heard some objections from the neighborhood. The location proposed now is preferred by the fire department and the school.”

“It’s actually a better location, with better access to Elrod Road,” said Skipper, who expects only about 30 emergency runs per year out of the station.

Not everyone in the Jody Richards Elementary neighborhood is welcoming the development. A handful of local residents joined the Zoom conference to express opposition.

Tenille Lewis, who lives on Silver Charm Circle near the school, questioned the wisdom of putting the fire station on a site where a soccer field and a play area are established.

But Warren County Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Chris McIntyre said the equipment on the site “will be relocated to where the project was originally going to go.”

Skipper hopes to build the station and safe room as one construction project, but he must wait on approval of a grant application for the safe room.

That grant application calls for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund $602,272.50 of the safe room’s total cost of $803,030 through a Hazard Mitigation Grant, with the remainder being picked up by state funding and a local match.

Skipper is hopeful that FEMA will approve his application, based on at least one recent approval. The Plano Volunteer Fire Department has been approved for a FEMA grant that will pay 75 percent of the $250,000 cost of a 1,500-square-foot safe room.

The Elrod Road rezoning passed with an 11-0 vote, but another contested application didn’t sail through as easily Thursday.

CMC Properties LLC and registered agent Casey Simpson were approved in an 8-2 vote for rezoning 1.83 acres at 318 Old Lovers Lane from agriculture to single-family residential.

Simpson plans to build a twinhome and keep an existing home on the property for a total of three residences. That plan is scaled down considerably from a 2019 development plan Simpson submitted and then withdrew that would have put 18 housing units on the property.

Still, six different residents spoke against the development, raising concerns about increased traffic and the compatibility of a twinhome in their neighborhood.

Attorney Chris Davenport, representing CMC Properties, countered that the development fits with the single-family neighborhood.

“This is not a multi-family request,” Davenport said.

Only commissioners Sandy Clark and Rick Starks voted against the rezoning, and commissioner Greg Gay abstained. The rezoning will go to Warren Fiscal Court for final approval.

In an 11-0 vote, the planning commission on Thursday approved the application of AT&T Mobility and property owners Amel and Teresa Hardcastle to put a 199-foot telecommunications (cellular) tower on a 0.23-acre agriculture tract on 3979 Old Greenhill Road.

David Pike, an attorney representing AT&T Mobility, said there were no other suitable towers for co-location in an area that he called “chronically underserved.”

At Thursday’s meeting, James and Gina Word were approved in an 11-0 vote for rezoning 1.324 acres along Smiths Grove-Scottsville Road from agriculture to residential estate in order to create one single-family residential lot. It will go to fiscal court for final approval.

Also passing unanimously and referred on to fiscal court was an application from Terri Sims and property owner Jannetta Oliver to rezone 5.02 acres at 294 Aaron Road from agriculture to rural residential in order to subdivide the property into two single-family residential tracts.