There is One Set of Rules for the General Public
The first presidential debate was held at the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion located on the campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on Tuesday, September 29, 2020. The City of Cleveland has a mandatory rule to wear face masks in public places. Cleveland Clinic that cosponsored the event with Case Western required temperature checks, hand sanitizing, social distancing, and facemasks for all debate guests. Everyone who entered the debate hall was required to have tested negative for COVID-19. Campaigns were responsible for testing candidates and their guests. According to White House officials, as reported by the Washington Post, the president and his guests at the debate received Abbott Labs’ TEST NOW rapid coronavirus tests. According to a study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic as reported by NPR, the ID NOW test only detected the Coronavirus in 85.2% of the sample, meaning it has a false-negative rate of 14.8% and therefore is not considered to be reliable.
- The first family flouted the masking rules when they were inside the Pavilion. The President’s adult children and guests when they entered the arena, all wore masks. By the time they were seated, they had taken off masks according to pool reporters who were present. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate, said Friday that the Cleveland Clinic staff asked everyone to wear a mask, which the Trump family declined to do. At the end of the debate when the spouses of the candidates joined their husbands, only Jill Biden had a mask on. A little more than two days later President Trump and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for COVID -19 which puts attendees and event officials at risk. This behavior should not come as a surprise to anyone. Trump resisted wearing a mask in public and the Trump campaign has not required masks at events.
- President Trump, always concerned about optics, has spun an alternate reality about the dangers of coronavirus. He disputed science and disregarded the recommendations of experts at the CDC on face coverings. He downplayed the risks of the pandemic to the American people, and routinely made false statements about how 99% of coronavirus cases in America are “totally harmless” or that the virus “affects virtually nobody.” Hope Hicks was the first senior White House aide tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Despite being in close quarters with her during debate prep, President Trump still traveled to Bedminster, N.J. the same day for a fundraiser where over two hundred mostly older supporters, most of them maskless, were in attendance. President’s actions were reckless and went against the CDC’s quarantine guidelines. He appeared fatigued, yet he stayed till the end and returned to the White House. The Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump received a positive result from a rapid test for Covid-19 Thursday evening. Yet, when he called in to Fox News for an interview with Sean Hannity, he did not disclose it. A few hours later, the result of a more reliable PCR test came back confirming that the President had COVID-19.
- In the midst of receiving treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center, Trump left his hospital room to take a ride to greet supporters. Wearing a jacket and face mask, Mr. Trump waved at the crowd through a closed window as his motorcade slowly cruised by. The stunt, which risked exposing Secret Service agents riding in his armored SUV, was in clear violation of the CDC’s isolation policies. As Dr. James Philips, Chief of Disaster Medicine at George Washington University and an attending physician at Walter Reed Medical Center tweeted “Every single person in the vehicle during the completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They might die…This is insanity.” Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, said, “The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.” Other medical experts say that the trip violated hospital protocols and that the President is still vulnerable. Despite being contagious, after being in the hospital for just over 72 hours, the President returned to the White House Monday evening. Trump is known for overruling his advisors on matters of science, public health, and medicine.
- The White House held an event to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday, September 27, 2020. The main event was held outdoors in the Rose Garden while some of the invitees also attended indoor receptions. Few guests wore masks and social distancing was absent. It is not known whether the President, the first lady, or Hope Hicks caught the infection from this event. The virus has reached the highest echelons of the government that includes three senators, several West Wing staffers, and campaign officials. As recently as Wednesday, Trump held several open-air rallies and some indoor ones too, where social distancing concerns were ignored and most attendees were maskless.
I have elaborated on the perils of not wearing masks and disregarding physical distancing guidelines in another article published on Medium.
If Only the President Had Advocated for a Masking Mandate and Had Donned One
He could have protected millions of citizens and himself
Jake Tapper addressed the fallout of this potential superspreader White House event on Sunday’s CNN’s program, State of the Union.
“How are future generations going to try to make sense of these images of the Republican leaders of the nation acting like this during a once in a century pandemic with more than 200,000 Americans dead?” While wishing everyone who contracted the virus a full and speedy recovery, he admonished them for their failed leadership and setting bad examples because they all risk spreading the virus themselves. He continued, “The president and his team have been behaving as if the pandemic is over. This callous indifference to the wellbeing of the citizens the president swore to protect, it’s no longer just theoretical, it’s no longer well, they might get the virus.” Talking about the President’s trip to the fundraiser in New Jersey, Tapper asked, “Did anyone in the White House or on the Trump campaign consider at all the housekeepers and bartenders at Bedminster, the naval aviators who flew them there on Air Force One, the young interns or old donors with whom the president came in contact? Anyone? Anyone at all?” He concluded his remarks thus, “Sick and in isolation, Mr. President, you have become a symbol of your own failures. Failures of recklessness, ignorance, arrogance. The same failures you have been inflicting on the rest of us.”
As a scientist and as a concerned human being, I am sympathetic to those afflicted by the Coronavirus. I am outraged at the callous disregard for public health and the safety and wellbeing of fellow citizens by the President and his family. The smug look on the faces of the Trump children demonstrated the disdain that they have for everyone else. I do not believe that one should consider these happenings to be the result of Karma. Now is not the time for cruelty, schadenfreude, or any other form of small-mindedness. And there is no vaccine or therapeutics for the selfishness and indifference of the first family.