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Johns Hopkins doctor on Trump’s coronavirus treatment team has plenty of experience treating contagious diseases

Dr. Brian Garibaldi talks with reporters Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
Dr. Brian Garibaldi talks with reporters Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore are often called on to treat top corporate executives, Supreme Court justices and even Arab royalty. In recent days, the president of the United States joined the roster.

Dr. Brian Garibaldi “is consulting with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center experts and the White House Medical Unit to assist with the COVID-19 treatment plan for President Donald Trump,” said a statement from Hopkins.

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Garibaldi is a top respiratory and critical care doctor who helped design a specialized ward to treat the sickest and most contagious patients in the country. The Hopkins Biocontainment Unit opened in response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and served as a model for more units rushed into use for the most severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Hospital officials would not make Garibaldi available for an interview, but the Hopkins statement continued, "Johns Hopkins Medicine is committed to providing the highest level of medical expertise to assist in the care of the President.”

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It’s not clear what role Garibaldi played in the decisions to treat Trump with three separate therapies, including one that is not regularly available at Hopkins or anywhere else, an experimental antibody treatment made by Regeneron.

In previous interviews throughout the pandemic, Garibaldi told The Baltimore Sun there hasn’t always been a clear treatment path for coronavirus patients, but doctors were using their experience with other viruses and conditions to guide their choices of existing therapies to stem potentially deadly inflammation and other complications.

Sometimes, he said, he found the treatments didn’t help, and occasionally hurt.

Garibaldi’s biggest lament, he has said, has been that many patients lay sick or dying without their families and sometimes even without medical providers at their bedside because at peak times they had to conserve the layers of protective gear needed to be near a contagious patient.

In addition to treating and advising on the care of COVID-19 patients, Garibaldi has been researching the disease, including once as a participant in a trial of the Trump-hyped drug hydroxychloroquine to see if it prevented a coronavirus infections in those exposed. He recently published a paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine on a prediction model he developed to anticipate whose condition was likely to worsen.

That has been a challenge with COVID-19, which, though it has become somewhat less deadly because of doctors' experience, still takes unexpected turns.

Trump’s White House doctor has kept many details of the president’s health and health care under wraps, including the timeline of his infection, but said recently Trump is not yet “out of the woods.”

Have Trump’s vitals been plugged in to Garibaldi’s model? Hopkins is referring all medical questions to the White House.

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