In triumphant fashion, the U.S. president returns to the White House. His press secretary even claims that his infection gives President Trump an advantage over Joe Biden. This is how playing down the pandemic continues.
There is a single silver lining in Donald Trump’s COVID-19: The president doesn’t seem to be in critical condition anymore. At the very least, he is well enough to return to the White House. So much for the good news.
Other than that, the whole thing was a complete disaster. From the introduction of Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court as he ignored all the rules regarding regarding social distancing and face masks, to how the White House handled the subsequent infection crisis and its lack of transparency about how Trump was faring during the course of the disease, to the irritating lessons Trump drew from it on Monday evening.
Let’s start with the prologue. Had the president not made the ostentatious rejection of COVID-19 rules his ideological shtick, probably none of this would have happened. The White House relied on the president’s approach as a sufficient way to test visitors. Moreover, the center of power was a largely mask-free zone, with rules regarding social distancing meant only for cowards.
As evidence of this, there was the event in the White House Rose Garden on Sept. 26 in honor of Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There, the guests sat without masks and crowded together. During the following reception, people avidly exchanged little kisses on the cheek, as one can see, for example, in a photo of Trump’s former adviser Kellyanne Conway.
8 People Were Infected in the Rose Garden
Conway later tested positive for COVID-19. In total, eight people were infected after attending the reception, which has since been called a “superspreader” event. Trump, close employees and political allies became victims of their own ideology, according to which the coronavirus isn’t really that big of a deal and the safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are excessive.
But this was just the beginning of the chain of mistakes. Hope Hicks, a close Trump adviser, began displaying the first symptoms of COVID-19 the following Wednesday during a campaign rally in Michigan. Perhaps the president wasn’t feeling well either, as the duration of his speech was cut to half its usual time. Then Thursday at noon, Hicks tested positive for the coronavirus.
The president and other people close to Hicks should have self-quarantined after this. Instead, Trump chose to attend a function with campaign donors in New Jersey. According to witnesses, he was in close contact with approximately 100 people while appearing lethargic and likely contagious, willingly endangering others around him.
When Was Trump’s Test Result Actually Available?
Later that same day, Trump and his wife also tested positive, that is, if the statement from the White House can be trusted. The fact is that the government made Hicks’ diagnosis public only after disclosure by a Bloomberg reporter. Therefore, there is doubt as to whether or not Trump’s positive test result, which he announced via Twitter on Friday night, was already known much earlier among insiders.
After the coronavirus outbreak within Trump’s inner circle, the White House was inept and irresponsible. It decided, for example not to conduct contact tracing for the Rose Garden event. Tracing of other meetings with the president and infected staff members was insufficient at best.
Those meetings also include the fundraiser in New Jersey, for which the White House provided contact information to authorities that was too late and incomplete. It’s all the more surprising, because there are now more than 20 infected people who either worked in the president’s sphere or had close contact with him or his staff. The last person to test positive was Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. According to insiders, the White House now looks like a ghost town.
The seat of government has become a superspreader institution. The way these chains of infection have been handled demonstrates the lack of any sense of responsibility by the Trump administration in recent months by the Trump administration with respect to containing the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed 210,000 Americans.
Trump Endangered Many People
Then there’s the president himself. It’s shocking that Trump did not seem to care at all about who else might become infected. Instead of quarantining early on, he endangered staff, supporters, fellow party members and donors. That includes those Secret Service agents who had to accompany Trump during his public relations drive for his fans on Sunday, as well as on Monday, when, despite still being infected, he asked to be brought back to the White House via helicopter. There he was filmed again without a mask, talking to nearby staff. Secret Service agents are willing to risk their lives for the president, if necessary. That doesn’t mean, however, that they have to put their life and well-being at stake when there is no emergency.
When Trump contracted the virus, Christian Democratic Union of Germany politician Friedrich Merz shared his own experience with COVID-19, which, he said, made him more humble. He hoped that Trump would take the illness seriously and take the appropriate steps regarding his handling of the pandemic. Since his triumphant return to the White House, though, Trump has exhibited neither humility nor seriousness.
Instead, he keeps downplaying the coronavirus, as if having to be put on a respirator was no big deal. “Don’t let it dominate your life,” he said about COVID-19 in a video he posted on Twitter, “don’t be afraid.” He even claimed that his risking infection was a sign of strong leadership.
A spokesperson for his campaign characterized Trump’s illness as a valuable advantage over challenger Joe Biden. An illness, mind you, that Trump could most probably have avoided if he had acted more responsibly and listened to his own health experts.
Apparently Trump has not learned anything from this experience. And that is one of the worst possible outcomes of Trump’s coronavirus drama. Not only will Trump have to face criticism about how his administration failed miserably in fighting the virus, but about the fact that by systematically downplaying the disease, the president played a major role in its spread.
By positioning himself against coronavirus regulations and personally serving as a bad example, he politicized mask wearing and social distancing and turned them into an act of faith. That is why diehard Trump supporters, who by now have become a political sect, express their loyalty to the president by refraining from following safety measures, which in turn accelerates the spread of the virus.
In the beginning there was hope that the shock of the president’s illness would make the president and his fans reconsider. This has yet to be the case. Instead, it appears that Trump is doubling down on his strategy of downplaying. And that is not good news for an America in which the pandemic continues to be rampant.