The image was made for television. Donald Trump had just landed in a helicopter on the White House lawn. He walked up the stairs to a balcony, and defiantly pulled off his mask.
He made a military salute with his right hand and stayed there for a long time, to make sure the nation’s television cameras saw him. It was prime time for the evening news shows, just before 7 pm. him. The message Trump wanted to send was clear: He was back, in control and had beaten the Corona virus.
The reality was very different. Five days before, on Thursday, Oct. 1, he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 and his doctors would not (or could not) show any proof that he had since tested negative. The video of his balcony appearance seemed to show that he had some difficulty breathing, and he was possibly still contagious, putting at risk the White House staff. The truth is that despite the show, the president was sick.
For Trump, to govern is mostly to appear on television and post on Twitter. “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he wrote on Twitter. “Don’t let it dominate your life.” But when he wrote that, more than 210,000 people had already died from the Corona virus in the United States. Days later, presidential adviser Anthony Fauci warned that the final death toll could reach 400,000 if extra precautions are not taken during the fall and winter.
Yes, you do have to fear the Corona virus. The treatment President Trump received at Walter Reed hospital would cost anyone else more than $100,000, according to a New York Times estimate. And the majority of the 7 million people infected in the United States have not received that presidential treatment.
The president lives in his own bubble. And when he was in the hospital he took it outside for a stroll. In the middle of his disease, he boarded a hermetically sealed vehicle with two Secret Service agents, just to thank supporters gathered on the streets around the hospital. He put the Secret Service agents and their families at risk.
Inside the presidential bubble, the flu is “less lethal” than Covid-19. That’s the falsehood that Trump Tweeted. The truth is that more people have died this year from the Corona virus than the flu in all of the last five years. Twitter added a disinformation warning to his post, and Facebook removed it completely.
The reality is that the Corona virus is very dangerous because it is easily transmitted through the air. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed this week that Covid-19 can be transmitted through “respiratory droplets comprised of smaller droplets and particles that can remain suspended in the air over long distances (usually greater than 6 feet) and time (typically hours). “ Imagine the risks created by president Trump himself walking without a mask around the official residence, attended by some 100 staffers.
On the pandemic, Trump has been disinformer-in-chief. He said it would miraculously disappear. Then he lied about its dangers to avoid “causing panic,” according to his comments to journalist Bob Woodward. And now, in another religious reference, he said that catching the virus was “a blessing from God” to test the experimental treatments he received.
All the president’s Covid-19 drama and risks could have been avoided if Trump had always worn protective masks in public, as Surgeon General Jerome Adams has recommended. But Trump seldom listens to doctors or scientists.
“I encourage people to wear a mask whenever they can, especially if they’re going to be less than six feet from other people. Because that is one way we know we can slow the spread of the virus,” Adams told me in an interview.
Dr. Adams has three rules to follow during the pandemic: Wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. “We know that works,” he said.
I wish he had a fourth rule: To tell President Trump every day to stay behind his mask when he goes out in public. Many lives would have been saved.