Trump’s reaction to his own COVID-19 diagnosis puts Americans in danger

Mikayla Galaviz, Reporter

A month ago, I wrote an opinion article about President Donald Trump’s lies regarding COVID-19.

About two weeks after that article was published, he tested positive.

I was hoping this would be a lesson for him. I thought maybe he’d understand what 8 million Americans have gone through and have some sympathy for the 220,000 families and the people who have died from COVID-19.

Yet, things seem to be the same.

Once again, Trump refuses to take COVID-19 seriously and continues to downplay its severity, ultimately showing his lack of responsibility as a leader.

After testing positive, Trump was taken to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received antibody treatments and top of the line healthcare.

As citizens, we didn’t receive any clarity from his administration about his diagnosis.

While the Trump administration told the nation Trump had mild symptoms, rumors about his worsening condition were spreading due to the treatments we were told he was receiving. No one knew what to believe.

Assistant Professor of Biology at California Lutheran University Paloma Vargas said when it comes to viruses, mild symptoms include a light fever under 102 degrees, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion and, specifically with COVID-19, loss of smell.  More severe symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and bluish lips due to lack of oxygen.

“I think there’s a little confusion there of the severity of the disease and also the severity of his own symptoms,” Vargas said in a Zoom interview. “A little bit more information and clarity on what it might look like could potentially sway people a little bit more to say this is actually a more serious disease than we have heard the president say on multiple occasions.”

During his hospital stay, Trump held a drive-by parade, waving to his supporters from a car with secret service agents dressed in medical gear. The infected president of a country that has yet to see any significant decrease in COVID-19 cases put his secret service agents, drivers and aides at risk for a political stunt.

“In this hermetically sealed vehicle, there is no airflow,” Vargas said. “Just from tracking COVID, we know that a greater amount of airflow [and] a greater physical distance from one person to the other is going to reduce the risk of transmission.”

Because this parade took place shortly after his positive results, the possibility of Trump infecting those around him was high.

“What we call the viral load, or the amount of virus that you have in your system, is at its peak within a five to ten day period,” Vargas said. “He was definitely within that area where the amount of virus that he had in his system was pretty high.”

I believe with a political move like this, Trump was telling the American people that even after testing positive, it is okay to leave self-isolation.

Trump was released from Walter Reed Medical Center after just three days, even though the recommended self-isolation period is at least two weeks. Trump was back in the White House, surrounded by his trusted advisors, and planning in-person rallies only three days after his diagnosis.

He even removed his mask during his first public appearances including a photo op upon returning  to the White House and a campaign rally less than one week after being discharged from Walter Reed.

“Specifically, masks and [maintaining] that six foot of physical distance minimum, really does decrease the possibility of others becoming infected,” Vargas said. “Whether it’s within a house, whether it’s the White House or your grandma’s house, or whether it’s on campus or at any event, you do want to maintain that physical distance. You do want to maintain that face covering, that specific mask covering, to reduce the chance of transmission.”

We are dealing with a global pandemic. Trump should not be making public health a partisan issue.

The pandemic should not be an issue of partisanship. We are living with a contagious disease that does not care about your race, gender or wealth, and it is not slowing down.

The American death rate is currently much higher than all other countries, and we just keep breaking our own records for the most positive tests in a single day.

Trump should’ve been 100% honest and clear about his diagnosis from the beginning and kept citizens updated rather than allowing rumors to circulate. Our leader should not be encouraging large in-person gatherings only two weeks after his diagnosis, putting more Americans at risk.

This isn’t normal.

Trump has shown us multiple times that he does not care about the safety of others. If he did, he would actively try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“As somebody who has a scientific background, I would want everybody, including the president, to follow scientific advice or scientifically-backed facts,” Vargas said.

I hoped he would learn from this. At the same time, I was terrified he’d use his diagnosis to convince his supporters that there was nothing to be afraid of. I knew his reaction could affect millions of lives.

“Stay home as much as you can,” Vargas said. “If you are in a situation where you are interacting with others, make sure that you are wearing a face mask that is triple layered, whether it’s a cloth face mask or a higher medical grade one.”

Vargas also said she wants to remind everyone to isolate if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, remain at a six-foot physical distance and always wash their hands and clean high-contact surfaces.

Who knows what will happen in the next couple of weeks. It feels like a lifetime has passed since I first wrote about Trump, and so much has changed.

I can only hope that others understand how horribly the U.S. compares to other large democratic countries regarding the coronavirus and take that into consideration when they vote by Nov. 3.

As I waited for Trump’s diagnosis news to slow down, one of my worst fears became true.

Despite schools and work being moved online, unemployment rates showing depression-era results, lack of proper healthcare for a majority of the nation and 220,000 Americans dead, the President of the United States said to not let COVID-19 dominate our lives, and to not be afraid.

Maybe I expected too much from him.