Trump's grotesque coronavirus theater

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From the Rose Garden to the campaign trail, Dr. Leana Wen breaks down the risks of the events President Trump attended before he tested positive for coronavirus.

Posted: Oct 6, 2020 4:41 PM
Updated: Oct 6, 2020 4:41 PM

President Donald Trump has reminded the world why the country is in such dire straits under his leadership.

Returning to the White House while still infected with a potentially deadly virus, he ostentatiously turned to the cameras and removed his facemask before walking in, making his every breath inside the building a threat to the health of the people working there. It was one more grotesque piece of Trump's coronavirus theater of the past few days, which for some reason he thinks will boost his political prospects, but more likely horrified those increasingly appalled by his behavior.

If you thought that after coming face to face with his mortality the President would experience a life-changing moment of deep introspection, you were wrong. On the contrary, Trump's illness appears to have solidified his unwavering faith in the catastrophic policies that left not only him and his staff unprotected from a pandemic, but encouraged Americans to take deadly risks and pay with their lives.

Three days after the Marine One helicopter performed a medical evacuation of the President of the United States from the White House lawn, Trump tweeted a startling message; startling, because it shows an utter inability to learn from experience. After announcing he would leave the hospital on Monday, he tweeted to tens of millions of followers:

"Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life."

It's a message that will cost more lives.

Most people, after enduring a jolting, potentially life-threatening event, emerge changed, even if only temporarily. There was a chance Trump would realize he had not warned Americans enough about the virus; a chance he would recognize that his nonchalance had resulted in deep suffering among those who ended up sick or who lost a loved one who followed his advice about masks and social distancing not being essential. There was a slim hope that after enduring Covid-19 he might say, or at least think, "I was wrong. I should be more careful and tell the American people that we should all take the disease seriously."

Not him. Nothing has changed.

It's all theater. It's all show. Who else puts on a suit and tie for an emergency helicopter ride to the hospital? It's all about creating an image and benefiting from it.

That has been his tactical approach to the pandemic all along. Tell Americans the virus is no big deal, get on with your lives, so that he can continue claiming that he's doing a great job as President. It's the strategy that has left the United States with the highest number of infections and deaths in the world -- 4% of the population, with 20% of the deaths -- even though no country on earth enjoys greater medical, technological and scientific resources to fight the pandemic.

When Trump fell ill -- whenever that was; we're still not sure -- he had access to every possible advantage. The nearly 7.5 million Americans infected, the more than 210,000 who have died, the hundreds of thousands who have tested positive in the past few days, can't summon helicopters to their back yards if they need to rush to the hospital; few people have teams of doctors, and access to every possible medication as he has.

Trump's extraordinarily irresponsible, reckless strategy of downplaying the dangers, didn't just fail to protect him, the President responsible for the security of his country, it also put his staff and his supporters at risk. How many are sick; how many will die?

The September 26 ceremony at the White House, where he nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- ignoring her final request and the wishes of most Americans, who say the winner of the November election should make the pick -- was a shocking spectacle of hubris. The only thing missing was a tableau of Trump fiddling before a country in flames. Those of us who watched the crowded, mostly maskless nomination announcement, could barely believe our eyes -- the crowds, the hugs, the kisses. It only made sense that it became a likely super-spreader event; that so many of those present contracted Covid-19.

Why weren't they wearing masks, indoors or outside the White House? Because Trump apparently thinks masks undercut the image of normalcy that will help him win reelection. It's a foolish and immoral strategy. Americans know this is no normal time.

Trump has mocked his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, for wearing a mask and protecting himself from the dangerous coronavirus. Now his campaign argues that Trump is better qualified than the Democratic candidate because, "He has experience now fighting the coronavirus ... Joe Biden doesn't." The word for that is chutzpah. Shamelessness.

Trump's salesman techniques may have fooled Americans into thinking he was a great businessman, but this time they're not working. Most Americans see Trump is the one responsible for his troubles. A CNN poll found two-thirds of Americans say Trump handled the risk of coronavirus infection to others around him irresponsibly. Similarly, an ABC/Ipsos poll found 72% think Trump didn't take precautions to avoid infection and didn't take the virus seriously enough.

Trump's brazen, misguided selfishness was also on display Sunday night, when he decided to leave his hospital room to soak up the adulation of his supporters with a ride in the back of tightly-sealed Chevy Suburban, unnecessarily placing his Secret Service detail at risk of inhaling his toxic exhalations.

As the number of infected White House staffers climbs, along with positive tests among other Republican officials following Trump's lead, he has shown little concern for their health, or for the need to protect Americans. After his senior aide Hope Hicks tested positive, he continued campaigning in person.

Covid is the worst public health crisis America has experienced in more than a century. It has killed more than a million people worldwide. It only makes sense to be afraid, to take precautions. But Trump wants voters to think everything is fine. "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life."

That is exactly what he has been telling Americans since the pandemic started, even as he knew the truth about the virus didn't jive with the advice. Recall that back in February, as he was publicly declaring that the pandemic was nothing to worry about, he told journalist Bob Woodward, "This is deadly stuff," many times deadlier than the worst flu. Trump knew. He knows.

He's just clearly incapable of introspection. Incapable of changing. Incapable of learning. It's the same Trump, still gaslighting Americans about a grave threat to their lives. Still pushing policies that will lead to more deaths.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 698692

Reported Deaths: 13148
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion953091706
Lake50868931
Allen38607670
Hamilton34028404
St. Joseph33404537
Elkhart26868431
Vanderburgh21948393
Tippecanoe21483212
Johnson17346371
Porter17059297
Hendricks16638309
Clark12600190
Madison12239335
Vigo12109243
Monroe11253166
LaPorte10639204
Delaware10251183
Howard9572211
Kosciusko9009112
Hancock7866139
Bartholomew7807153
Warrick7660155
Floyd7509175
Wayne6849196
Grant6732167
Boone648199
Morgan6341137
Dubois6054117
Marshall5720108
Cass5658102
Dearborn565275
Henry5545100
Noble534983
Jackson489869
Shelby474495
Lawrence4304118
Gibson425788
Harrison425370
Montgomery414686
Clinton413953
DeKalb404183
Huntington373180
Whitley372639
Miami369965
Knox363889
Steuben359657
Putnam350760
Wabash344977
Jasper342246
Adams336852
Ripley332668
Jefferson306779
White306054
Daviess288199
Wells283680
Decatur278092
Fayette276762
Greene268785
Posey267533
Scott258753
Clay250944
LaGrange249670
Randolph233679
Washington228929
Spencer227231
Jennings224347
Fountain207245
Sullivan207241
Starke199452
Owen191056
Fulton189139
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175852
Rush169424
Vermillion165543
Franklin164835
Tipton160743
Parke143516
Blackford132130
Pike129634
Pulaski112445
Newton102434
Brown98940
Crawford96814
Benton94913
Martin82115
Warren78715
Switzerland7688
Union69510
Ohio55411
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1039455

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1205361345
Cuyahoga1051802040
Hamilton774991164
Montgomery49566984
Summit44613904
Lucas39235757
Butler37466566
Stark31150890
Lorain23831467
Warren23725291
Mahoning20653581
Lake19760360
Clermont19325226
Delaware17811130
Licking15996205
Fairfield15520195
Trumbull15412458
Medina14693255
Greene14510233
Clark13455287
Wood12575182
Portage12183193
Allen11225229
Richland10924197
Miami10470211
Muskingum8653127
Columbiana8482225
Wayne8463209
Pickaway8394120
Tuscarawas8317239
Marion8302135
Erie7434153
Ross6650145
Hancock6608123
Geauga6462146
Ashtabula6374163
Scioto625699
Belmont5523158
Union551747
Lawrence5439102
Huron5237112
Darke5229121
Jefferson5223147
Sandusky5096118
Seneca5050118
Washington5031107
Athens494854
Auglaize470684
Mercer467984
Shelby453489
Knox4339108
Madison417957
Putnam417698
Ashland409186
Fulton402565
Defiance396396
Brown383955
Crawford3827100
Logan370076
Preble368295
Clinton357459
Ottawa352278
Highland345058
Williams318274
Champaign317355
Jackson305051
Guernsey303448
Perry286949
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261866
Hardin261163
Coshocton256057
Holmes251799
Van Wert237562
Gallia232146
Pike231031
Adams226251
Wyandot224553
Hocking207057
Carroll187846
Paulding167638
Meigs140938
Noble131837
Monroe128541
Morgan105822
Harrison104836
Vinton81013
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 53°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Lima
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Rain showers taper off throughout Sunday evening. Temperatures overnight will drop into the mid to low 40s. Monday, expect more clouds in the morning, with a littler clearer sky in the afternoon. Isolated rain showers possible on Monday. Highs around 60 on Monday.
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