The President Getting Infected with COVID-19 is a National Embarrassment

Do as I say, not as I do

On Sept. 26, 2020, America watched the President host a Rose Garden ceremony to officially announce the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States. Normally, the only thing that would be unique or usual about this sort of event would be the nominee. Instead, it was the event itself that raised eyebrows, or in this case, very loud alarm bells. With the exception of a few people and military aides, the majority of the crowd was unmasked. At the time, it was a “calm before the storm” moment. This event will most likely become notorious for illustrating this administration’s, as well as the entire Republican Party’s, cavalier attitude toward the pandemic.

Watching the video of the ceremony, you’d think that we were having a normal year with no highly contagious virus ravaging the world. That illusion all came crashing down about a week later, days after the first presidential debate, when White House advisor Hope Hicks tested positive for COVID-19. The President and the First Lady tested positive the next day. As with everything else in this White House, reports with little to no transparency from White House physicians about the President’s condition were given at first. However, the President’s condition progressively worsened throughout the day of Oct. 2, and ultimately ended as he was flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. At the beginning of the day, the President was supposedly doing fine. The biggest indicator that the President wasn’t fine? He stopped tweeting for the whole day. He didn’t show up for a scheduled phone conference with governors, having the Vice President fill in instead. For a President who consistently and constantly announces major policy decisions via Twitter, oftentimes blindsiding career civil servants in the process, it was an eerie silence that settled on Washington that day. 

To be honest, when I first saw the notification that the President and First Lady tested positive, my friends and I asked if it was real. All of us had been so used to the President’s lies, our first instinct was to question whether the reports were true. It was the ultimate form of hubris, especially when remembering all the events of the year. I wondered if Trump would have an epiphany like UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after his experience with COVID-19 and ultimately take the pandemic more seriously. However, in hindsight, maybe it was naive of me to assume that the President would realize this disease was much worse than he thought and change his administration’s attitude. Instead of a change in attitude, the President and his staff only dug their heels in further. The President has always wanted to convey a message of personal strength, fearing what people would think of him if he appeared weak. We found out the lengths he was willing to go to appear strong when he went on a car ride to wave to supporters outside of Walter Reed. On top of the bizarre nature of the situation, the SUV that the President used is essentially a giant box of recycled air, as it’s designed to protect against bioweapons. Not only did he take an entirely unnecessary break from quarantine for political reasons, but the President also willingly risked the lives of the Secret Service agents in the car with him for no good reason. While Secret Service agents signed up to take a bullet for the President, they never signed up to take a bullet from the President. 

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the President got infected at the Rose Garden ceremony that was held to announce the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. The ignorance and arrogance of President Trump’s administration caused an outbreak among White House staffers that resulted in more confirmed infections than within the entire nation of Taiwan, a nation of 24 million people. In dealing with this pandemic, not only does the President shift blame away from his disastrous “leadership,” but the people he surrounds himself with routinely attack our stellar public health institutions and career scientists for something as simple as recommending wearing a mask. Comparatively, countries like Taiwan have had a consistent and effective response to the pandemic since the beginning. At the beginning of the year, the then-Taiwanese Vice President, Chen Chien-Jen, led their COVID-19 response. Chen Chien-Jen is an epidemiologist who was also the Health Minister during the 2003 SARS epidemic. He has been praised for his response during both the SARS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic and recently returned to private life. Health officials even went out of their way to wear pink masks to encourage young boys to wear them, because young boys viewed them as girly. Never once did Taiwanese officials politicize the emerging disease. In our country, the President has downplayed and continues to downplay the pandemic. At one point early on, he said that the coronavirus would disappear by Easter. 

Even after his hospitalization and subsequent release, the President said, with no evidence, that he was immune and that people shouldn’t allow this virus to dominate our lives. What his most recent tweets don’t mention, however, is that he received what is arguably the best bespoke medicine in the world; after all, he is President of the United States. His actions and total disregard for the well-being of others are a slap in the face to anyone who has been affected by the coronavirus. The medicine that helped him recover may be impossible for an average person to receive. If an average working person were to be hospitalized, they would leave with whopping medical bills, and that’s assuming they’re insured. The President? We pay for his healthcare with our tax dollars because he and his administration officials refuse to put on a $0.50 mask.