Having spent months utterly failing to protect Americans from COVID-19 and completely disregarding the guidance of public health experts, Donald Trump now finds himself and his wife Melania infected with the virus with less than forty days to go until the end of voting in the 2020 presidential election, which has already been defined in almost every imaginable way by the pandemic.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has already claimed 200,000 American lives. Millions more have gotten sick. Some have recovered, while a few (known as long-haulers), appear to be stuck with the illness.
Trump is now among their number.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS [First Lady of the United States Melania Trump] and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this together!” Trump tweeted at 9:54 PM Pacific/12:54 AM Eastern. (Just four hours prior to posting that tweet, Trump had revealed that his aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19.)
U.S. Navy Commander Sean P. Conley, the President’s physician, released a statement confirming the test result. The statement read:
“This evening I received confirmation that both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the SARS-CoV‑2 virus. The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence. The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions. Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any further developments.”
Tweeting and watching television are what constitute Trump’s main “duties”, by Trump’s own choosing and those can be done even by someone who is bed ridden, so in one sense, Conley’s expectations are not far-fetched.
However, to suggest that there will be no disruption as a consequence of this development is preposterous. Donald and Melania may not feel sick now; they may not be experiencing any symptoms at this moment. That doesn’t mean they never will. And regardless of how bad their cases of COVID-19 get, they cannot be around other people. They will have to isolate/quarantine for weeks.
That means Trump cannot travel. He cannot appear at previously scheduled rallies. He cannot go to fundraisers like the one he was at last night in New Jersey. And he most certainly cannot “debate” Joe Biden again — at least not in person. (There are two more presidential debates scheduled, in addition to the vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.)
There has arguably not been a threat to the health of the nation’s top official this grave since the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Many, many questions remain unanswered at this hour.
How long has Trump had the virus? Did he get it from Hope Hicks? Do Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Mark Meadows, Kayleigh McEnany, Amy Coney Barrett, and others have it? What about Joe Biden, who was only a few feet away from Donald Trump in an auditorium on Tuesday? (Biden and Trump did not shake hands or stand right next to each other, but Biden was exposed nevertheless.)
Why was Trump permitted to travel to New Jersey when the White House knew of Hope Hicks’ positive test earlier today and of her symptoms last night? Why did Kayleigh McEnany conduct a press briefing without mentioning this?
While this is unquestionably an ominous development, it is not a surprising one. Donald Trump put his own health at risk and that of countless others by failing to model the behaviors public health experts have been telling Americans are a requirement to combat COVID-19, including mask-wearing, physical distancing, and not organizing large gatherings. The blood of hundreds of thousands of dead Americans is on his hands. Trump’s conduct has been monstrous.
Now he is reaping what he has sown.
We at NPI do not wish illness or death upon anyone; it’s against our moral code. We hope Donald and Melania recover and live to witness the reclaiming of American democracy from their destructive, neofascist regime.