Covid-19: President Trump is still not taking the pandemic seriously
The United States President Donald Trump’s fight with Covid-19 has so far not convinced him to prioritize a responsible approach to a pandemic that has killed 209,000 Americans over his own political needs.
On Sunday, President Trump staged an extraordinary drive-by photo-op in front of supporters gathered with flags and banners outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The stunt, which risked exposing Secret Service agents riding in his armored SUV, amounted to a familiar flouting of government recommendations to stop the spread of the virus which has infected 7 million Americans.
It was the latest flagrant sign of politics superseding Trump’s duties as a steward of the national well-being — with Election Day only 29 days away and voting in many states already underway.
It came amid lingering confusion about the President’s true state of health after a weekend in which the White House undertook strenuous efforts to minimize the seriousness of his case. But details about the cocktail of therapies that he is taking suggest that he is experiencing complications from the disease, even as his doctors said it was possible he could return to the White House Monday.
The showman President’s motorcade photo-op followed a misleading and politicized White House performance that displayed all the failures that have made the US anti-Covid effort one of the worst in the world.
White House physician, Sean Conley, admitted on Sunday to not telling the full truth about Trump’s condition the day before — including about two drops in his oxygen levels — to avoid overshadowing the “upbeat” official line on the President’s health.
Trump and his aides worked hard to show he was strong and getting better before he faces off with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, whose campaign said he again tested negative on Sunday. But the contradictions and misrepresentations from his medical team means that Americans can have no confidence that the White House is giving a complete picture of what’s going on.
Conflicting messages and half-truths underscored the administration’s inability to properly manage the machinery of the state and to understand the importance of sending clear information about the President’s health and the continuity of power to Americans and potential adversaries abroad.
The extraordinary attention that accompanies a presidential illness — in this case multiplied because the commander-in-chief is sick from a disease he has ignored, downplayed and said will soon go away — has obscured the alarming trajectory of the pandemic in recent days.
Including Friday, when Trump was dramatically flown to the hospital on Marine One, the US has recorded another 121,000 cases of Covid-19 and another 1,800 deaths. None of those new patients will get the dedicated round-the-clock medical care, experimental treatments, hospital suites and joy rides that are available to the President amid a national emergency in which many have died alone and patients are isolated from loved ones in crowded hospitals.
Trump says he ‘gets it’
In a video on Sunday, the President said that he had learned a lot of interesting things about Covid-19 that he planned to share with the country. It was not clear if he was finally appreciating the danger of the virus following his own infection.
For months, the President has been briefed by some of the best epidemiological experts in the world but did not treat the pandemic with the necessary seriousness. His video, posted on Twitter, did not include any admonition to Americans to take the disease more seriously after months of his flouting government health warnings and mocking those who observe them — including Biden.
“I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the let’s read the book school and I get it. And I understand it,” Trump said.
The President’s subsequent jaunt outside the hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, clearly showed his education in Covid-19 does not include new respect for social distancing.
Such precautions were also ignored at a mostly mask-free event at the White House nine days ago at which Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. At least eight people who attended the event, including the President, have been infected with Covid-19.
Trump also ignored precautions at a fundraising event in New Jersey Thursday, where he went despite knowing his close aide Hope Hicks had been diagnosed with Covid-19. His conduct raises the question of whether he endangered others while knowing he had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Sunday that the President learned about his positive test when he returned from the trip. She did not say when he took the test. And given the obfuscation by the White House over the weekend, the truthfulness of any official statements at this point is in serious doubt.
Several Secret Service officers in the vehicle with Trump Sunday, who were wearing surgical masks and face shields, must presumably now quarantine after being in close contact with a patient with Covid-19, and risk becoming the latest casualties of Trump’s political ambitions.