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"The behavior of the first family has endangered not only their own health, but that of the staff." -- Megan Ranney, emergency room physician

By Miriam Raftery

October 6, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – President Donald Trump returned to the White House late yesterday, still contagious with COVID-19 after his discharge from Walter Reed Medical Center.  

As he entered the White House, he defiantly removed his mask, thus contaminating the air with the coronavirus, potentially exposing White House staff.  He then posed for a campaign video, exposing a film crew to the virus. In direction contradiction to the advice of public health officials, Trump advised American not to be afraid of the virus, claiming “We’re going back to work.” He urged Americans not to be afraid of COVID-19 – apparently tone deaf to the suffering of families of more than 200,000 Americans who have died and many others left debilitated by the disease.

Then in a tweet this morning falsely likened it to the flu – a post so irresponsible that some social media sites have removed it for endangering lives. Trump previously admitted in a taped interview in February with journalism Bob Woodward that he knew the coronavirus was much more deadly than the flu but downplayed its severity to avoid causing panic.

Now, two White House staffers have tested positive for COVID and were reportedly told to "use discretion" in reporting their illnesses.  "This is what I was worried about," tweeted emergency physician Megan Ranney after the housekeepers' diagnoses were first reported by Forbes. "The behavior of the first family has endangered not only their own health, but that of the staff."

On Sunday, Trump took a joy ride in a sealed SUV to wave at well-wishers outside the hospital, exposing his Secret Service agents in the vehicle to COVID-19.  There was no social distancing, no visible barriers between the president and agents, who did not have on full protective gear.

In COVID-19 hospital wards, all who come in contact with COVID-19 patients wear protective “moon suits” with goggles, gloves, face shields, and bodies 100% covered.  An agent visible wore only a mask and a thin, torn medical gowno with his neck fully exposed, seated directly in front of the still-contagious president.

The Trump campaign has claimed the agents “volunteered” for the duty. But medical experts have issued scathing criticism.

But Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed Medical Center , wrote in a pair of scathing tweets, “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play. Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential “drive-by” just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Dr.Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and visiting professor at George Washington University, wrote, “If @realDonaldTrump were my patient, in unstable condition + contagious illness, & he suddenly left the hospital to go for a car ride that endangers himself & others: I'd call security to restrain him then perform a psychiatric evaluation to examine his decision-making capacity.”

The President has claimed he feels better than he has in years, however this is after receiving experimental medical treatments, some not available to most Americans hospitalized with COVID-19. His treatment has included the steroid dexamethasone, which reduces inflammation temporarily but also can create a sense of euphoria or even psychotic breaks.  It is normally only administered in severe cases of COVID-19, not mild or moderate cases.

Trump’s team of physicians has dodged questions over the results of lung x-rays or other diagnostic tests, citing patient privacy. The president did suffer breathing troubles immediately prior to his hospitalization, when he was twice administered oxygen. His doctor indicated that the President’s oxygen level at one point dropped below 94 but did not fall into the low 80s, leaving a wide range of possibilities.

Trump reportedly tested positive on Thursday, the morning after debating Vice President Joe Biden, who tested negative so far. The President and his inner circle knew that he had been exposed to the virus after aide Hope Hicks tested positive a day earlier, yet Trump’s family showed up at the debate without masks in direct violation of the debate rules – a fact that drew an angry rebuke from moderator Chris Wallace.  Even when offered masks, Trump’s family members refused to put them on.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has indicated that anyone not wearing a mask will not be admitted to the next debate in mid-October, which Trump has said he intends to attend.

Tomorrow night’s Vice Presidential Debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence will include a plexiglass barrier between them. Vice President Pence, like many others, was exposed to COVID-19 at a recent White House rose garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, but thus far Pence has tested negative for the virus.

The rose garden reception, which also had an indoor component, featured no social distancing or masks, in fact guest were encouraged not to wear masks so as not spoil photo opportunities.  Since then, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive, along with at least a dozen top officials present including three Republican Senators, press secretaryKayleigh McEnany and PR aide Kellyanne Conway, whose daughter is also now ill.  Several White House staffers are also reportedly ill.  Attorney General William Barr has indicated he is self-quarantining after close contact with Conway at the rose garden event.

Today, the Pentagon announced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our nation’s top military leaders, are quarantining at home after Coast Guard Admiral Charles Ray tested positive for COVID-19 following a meeting with other Joint Chiefs.

Just hours before announcing his positive COVID test, the President said during a dinner at the White House that the “end of the pandemic is in sight.” Last week, after knowing of his exposure to Hope Hicks, Trump did not disclose the exposure and traveled to fundraising and other campaign events in  Minnesota, New Jersey and Ohio, drawing angry responses from some donors exposed and public health officials there.

During the debate last week, Trump blamed COVID on China, refusing to accept any responsibility for the U.S. having the highest number of cases and deaths of any nation in the world, stating “We’ve done a great job.” He derided Biden for wearing masks at campaign appearances, hours before revealing his own positive diagnosis after repeatedly holding large rallies without wearing a mask.

Biden, by contrast, indicated he would follow the recommendations of scientists, though stopped short of recommending any future shutdowns. He did, however, urge people to wear masks and practice social distancing to save lives. “How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone died of COVID?” he asked. “How many of you are in a situation where you lost your momr or dad and you couldn’t even speak to them, you had a nurse holding a phone up so you could in fact say goodbye?” Biden noted that Trump’s own CDC director has advised that wearing masks between now and year’s end could save another 200,000 people from dying.

A new CNN poll reveals the American people’s trust in Trump has withered following his recent actions since contracting COVID-19. According to the poll released yesterday, two-thirds said Trump handled the risk of a viral infection to those around him irresponsibly. Even more, 69%, said they trust little of what they have heard from the White House about the President’s health and only 12% said they trust most of it.

 In a new high, less than four weeks before Election day with many already casting ballots by mail, 60% said they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

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