Written By: Annilee Hampton
There are many rumors surrounding President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19. It is unknown just how serious Trump’s condition is or was, but one thing is clear: his response following his own infection dangerously downplays the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House COVID-19 outbreak can be traced to a ceremony held in the White House Rose Garden on September 26 announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Over one hundred people attended the event, most of whom were not wearing masks. Photos of the event show a lack of social distancing. Following the event, at least eight people tested positive for the coronavirus, including President Trump himself, first lady Melania Trump, former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Utah Senator Mike Lee, North Carolina Senator Thomas Tillis, University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, close presidential aide Hope Hicks, and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also tested positive, but did not attend the Rose Garden event, which Dr. Anthony Fauci. called a ‘superspreader’ event
Following this event, multiple White House personnel attended the first presidential debate on Sept. 29. While both campaigns initially agreed that all attendees would be masked, excepting the two presidential candidates and moderator Chris Wallace, the First Lady, as well as Trump’s sons, daughters, and many of his guests, removed their masks as soon as they sat down in the hall. An official from the Cleveland Clinic, which co-hosted the debate, offered them masks, but they neglected to wear them. The Cleveland Clinic released a statement following the debate, stating “Individuals entering the debate hall were masked and in some cases removed their masks once seated. A Cleveland Clinic physician did offer audience members masks, but some did not adhere to the requirement.”
In a tweet on Oct. 2, Trump stated, “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Later that day, Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland “out of an abundance of caution,” the White House said. Despite many rumors regarding Trump’s declining condition, Trump was discharged from the hospital and returned to the White House three days later, on Oct. 5. Two days after his discharge, Trump tweeted, “Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. 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!!!” Twitter later added a disclaimer to the Tweet, stating that it violated Twitter rules and contained potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. Trump’s fast recovery, if he is truly as recovered as White House officials say, is likely due to the fact that he had access to much more powerful treatments than the average person infected with the virus would.
All of these events lead to a grim conclusion: if President Trump remains in power, the coronavirus pandemic in the United States will get much, much worse before it gets any better. Trump has displayed blatant disregard for the virus on many occasions, most notably the Tulsa rally on June 20 as well as, more recently, a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 14. Despite Trump tossing masks out to the crowd, Trump himself did not wear a mask, nor did many supporters that attended the rally. At one point, he asked the crowd how many of them had recovered from the coronavirus, and, after a smattering of applause, asserted, “A lot of people.”
Trump’s constant downplay of the severity of this pandemic could lead to terrible consequences for the American people if he is to be reelected. The Rose Garden superspreader event would not be a one-time occurrence, but would become one of many superspreader events not just amongst government officials, but also amongst the American people. It is paramount that as many people vote in the upcoming election as possible in order to influence the future of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that voters think critically about exactly what the consequences of their votes may be.