I notice some local backers of President Trump were kind of hoping that his coronavirus diagnosis would serve as a “wakeup call,” for him and for others, to maybe start taking the pandemic more seriously.
Well we got an instant answer to that one.
Even after being personally hospitalized and treated with experimental drugs, after hosting what appears to have been a superspreader event for his Supreme Court nominee, after having more infections this past week at the White House than some entire countries, after seeing the U.S. Senate forced into recess and the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff into quarantine, President Trump still won’t admit that there might be something to this coronavirus thing.
Nope, after all that, on Tuesday he went back to the same maddening spot he first perched on back in February: It’s just the flu.
Anyone recall the seasonal flu ever causing even one of the above things, let alone all of them?
My stance on this pandemic from the beginning has been to try to be as understanding as possible. Take the rules and restrictions like masking and social distancing: They’re important, but they’re also messy, imperfect shields against the disease. People are also messy and imperfect. So if they sometimes gather or don’t always wear masks, then try to cut them some slack.
“Just do as much distancing as you personally can,” an infectious disease specialist advised me in March when this all started. “Every bit helps. It’s important not to judge.”
Man it sure is hard not to judge right now.
As reckless and openly dismissive of the contagion as Trump has been — mocking others for wearing masks while simultaneously holding huge, maskless gatherings — I can only assume he must have known he’d catch the virus eventually. And presumably he’s OK with that, as are all the other attendees at his events. We all have some agency over our own health, and maybe Trump’s behavior was like having a chickenpox party. It’s a choice you can make if you wish.
The people I feel for are the ones who had to be there, the working White House service folks like valets and janitors, as well as the unsung Secret Service agents. To me it’s fine to have little regard for one’s own safety, but inexcusable to be that heedless of others.
Still, coming out of all that, I can’t abide what he did next. He went back to the flu.
“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” Trump tweeted the morning after getting out of the hospital. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
None of that is true except the first sentence. The 2019-20 flu season killed 22,000, and no flu season in more than 50 years has killed 100,000 Americans. Already the coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 Americans — nearly 10 times more than last season’s flu.
The coronavirus is also proving far more deadly to all age groups and populations except, thankfully, the very young.
“For kids it’s about the same as a mild to moderate flu, for everyone else it’s three to 13 times worse,” said Tom Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There’s plenty of debate to be had on where we should go from here with this disease. But what possible reason could there be to stick to a talking point that’s so obviously wrong, including in Trump’s own case. (Has he ever been medevaced to the hospital before and put on experimental drug therapy for the flu?)
Maybe it’s a lie in service of excusing any mismanagement of this pandemic. But it gets repeated often enough by some local Republicans and others on social media that it’s taken on a cultlike air.
I’m just shaking my head here in disbelief at all this, but it must be truly enraging to those who have lost people to the coronavirus.
Recently I stopped by Seattle’s Leschi Market, where the owner Steve Shulman died from the coronavirus in March. His nephew Yousef, who’s running the store, said it’s wrenching because they still haven’t been able to hold a funeral or memorial service.
What about outside, in the park next door, I suggested. But Yousef said a 1,000-plus people would likely want to come, potentially endangering themselves and the wider community. So he said he feels an obligation to wait, probably until at least summer 2021.
This is where we are, eight months into this pandemic: the grieving local shopkeeper shows a greater sense of obligation to, and concern about, the broader public than does the president of the United States. The shopkeeper also clearly has a keener understanding of the risk of becoming a superspreader.
Trump’s gonna Trump, no matter what, apparently. It’s always been a reality TV show. All we’ve learned this past week is that above all that show must go on, actual reality be damned.