We should all be sending good wishes for a speedy recovery to the President, First Lady, and the more than seven million Americans who have been stricken by the coronavirus. However, Donald Trump’s contracting COVID-19 was medically and karmically inevitable. You can’t walk up to a rattlesnake, try and pick it up, and be surprised when you get bitten.
Despite the rapidly growing number of Republicans in Trump’s orbit who are contracting the virus, including his campaign manager, press secretary, Chris Christie, and former aide Kellyanne Conway, the president and Republicans continue to deny the seriousness of the pandemic and put others they come into contact with at risk of contracting the virus. Rather than accepting contracting COVID-19 as a teachable moment for the country (and most importantly his supporters) and educate us on how communicative the disease is and how to avoid getting it, Trump tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of COVID…I feel better than I did 20 years ago.”
The president is a member of a high risk group for complications from COVID. He is a 74-year-old obese male. His doctor says he is “not out of the woods yet,” so it’s doubtful that he feels better than he did two decades ago. More importantly, he and Republicans continue to put others at risk as they set an example of denying a reality which has infected more than 7 million Americans and killed more than 200,000 of us; with no cure, or national plan to combat it in sight.
Trump’s CDC’s guidelines for patients with COVID-19 prohibit their being transported unless it is “medically essential.” Nevertheless, he created yet another photo op for his realty show by having himself placed in the back of a hermetically sealed Secret Service SUV so he could wave to his supporters gathered outside the hospital. He did this with no regard for the safety of the secret service agents and those who assisted him in getting in and out of the vehicle. The Trump campaign’s announcement, after the president’s infection, that rallies would go forward as “mask optional” events is shocking. The virus is racing through the administration precisely because it did not institute the only defenses we have against the virus: masking, distancing, and contact tracing. Sixty percent of Americans now say they disapprove of the way Trump is handing the pandemic. Continuing mask-optional, non-distancing mass rallies is insanity. It can only spread the virus.
The current outbreak spreading through Trump’s inner circle likely began at the Rose Garden event nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Like other Trump events, attendees sat close to each other for extended periods. Most didn’t wear masks, and there were smaller indoor gatherings. This was a theatrical event depicting normalcy in the most public health abnormal and dangerous time we’ve experienced in the past 100 years. The President, the First Lady, and everyone one else at that event were willing to play Russian Roulette with an invisible killer, with predictable results.
The irony of Donald Trump contracting COVID-19 can’t be overstated. He knew he was walking up to a “rattlesnake” every time he: held a mass rally sans mask and distancing, or an event like the one in the Rose Garden. He instituted a no-mask policy in the White House. He also knew that he was exposing his supporters at the rallies to something invisible and deadly as he led them in unmasked cheers for his reelection. He obviously doesn’t care.
The fact that Trump is not willing to make this a “teachable moment” for those who still believe they are somehow immune from the virus is tragic. However, it is teaching us that this man is unfit to lead our nation. While he intellectually knew the dangers of COVID-19 and how it spreads last January, he now knows what this disease feels like. He should have put his campaign aside, for at least a moment, and told us what he is learning from having fallen ill with COVID-19. Sadly, he did not.