President Donald Trump posted a video Sunday night talking about his condition as he recovers from the coronavirus, saying he is now more of an expert than the experts.
“I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This isn’t the ‘let’s read the books’ school. I get it. And I understand it. It’s a very interesting thing,” he said.
But everything Trump has done since receiving a positive diagnosis for COVID-19 shows how this superspreader has actually learned nothing at all.
The priority for Trump and his allies before last week was to project strength for political purposes, no matter the cost. The priority now is the same, even as the positive diagnoses pile up and the toll becomes dangerously clear.
The video posted Sunday night contained a surprise announcement that Trump was going to take a drive in the presidential motorcade to thank supporters who had gathered outside the hospital to wish him well.
The problem with that move is that Secret Service agents accompanied him in the car, which is tightly sealed ― dangerous conditions to be in with someone who has COVID-19. Trump also appeared to be wearing a cloth mask, rather than the more protective N95 mask.
“That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack,” tweeted Dr. James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed. “The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures.”
“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. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity,” he added.
Trump has worked while at Walter Reed ― or has at least pretended to work ― and was with his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and senior adviser, Dan Scavino, on Sunday. In other words, instead of quarantining and conducting his job virtually, his aides were with him.
Trump has continued to bristle at the idea of being quarantined, despite his positive diagnosis. He has sent a message to people around the country that it is not essential to self-isolate.
In a video on Twitter, he explained that he decided to go to Walter Reed because he didn’t simply didn’t want to have to isolate himself.
“I just didn’t want to stay in the White House. I was given that offer. Stay in the White House, lock yourself in, don’t ever leave. Don’t even go in the Oval Office. Just stay upstairs and enjoy it. Don’t see people, don’t talk to people. And just be done with it. And I can’t do that. I have to be out front,” he said.
Again, the reason that people recover from the coronavirus alone is not to “enjoy” being quarantined, but so they don’t risk infecting other people.
But Trump and those in his circle ― where coronavirus cases continue to spread at an astonishing pace ― seem to have little regard for the spread.
Even after the diagnosis of Trump and top officials, the White House said that masks would still not be mandatory for staff and visitors. People who have been exposed to a staffer with the coronavirus are not being forced to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Indeed, the White House press secretary spoke to reporters outside the White House on Sunday without wearing a mask.
A day before testing positive for COVID-19, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke to reporters without a mask.
On Saturday, the Trump campaign hosted an event in Iowa where attendees mingled with the state’s governor. Masks were not required. On Sunday morning, a top campaign adviser claimed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has “used the mask as a prop.”
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, had already tested positive last Friday for COVID-19.
Data, information and transparency are key to fighting the coronavirus. It’s important to trace a person’s activities to try to figure out who else might be infected and stanch further spread of the virus.
But the White House has refused to release detailed information about the president’s illness, and contact tracing has been limited. A New York Times reporter believes he was infected at the White House the day Trump announced his Supreme Court pick at a large outdoor gathering without mask-wearing and social distancing. Yet, as of Monday morning, the Times reporter still had not heard from the White House about any contract-tracing efforts.
Trump’s medical team, meanwhile, has given confusing and contradictory information to the public, appearing to downplay the severity of his condition and opening itself up to questions about whether there is a cover-up or incompetence. White House doctor Sean Conley has admitted to withholding information about Trump’s condition to reflect an “upbeat attitude” that wouldn’t upset the president.
The Trump world is already trying to turn the president’s illness into a plus. On Fox News Monday, Trump campaign spokesperson Erin Perrine argued that Trump ― who, again, appeared to be a superspreader because of his refusal to take the coronavirus seriously ― now has “firsthand experiences” about the virus that Biden doesn’t.
Trump’s medical team has also held out the possibility of releasing the president as early as Monday — much to the shock of health experts who say it goes against all best practices, seems foolish in light of the serious treatment the president has received, and appears to be influenced by politics and a president who wants to look strong a month before the election.
“I will bet dollars to doughnuts it’s the president and his political aides who are talking about discharge, not his doctors,” William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University’s medical school.
On Monday afternoon, Trump tweeted that he was going to back to the White House despite his earlier video message insisting he didn’t want to be stuck there.
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