In a remarkable split screen moment that will serve as an eerie reminder of America’s chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci issued yet another urgent plea for Americans to mask up, at precisely the same time Monday when US president Donald Trump, now a COVID-19 patient, climbed up the steps to the White House South Portico balcony, ripped off his mask, stuffed it in his pocket and struck a double thumbs-up pose for the photographers assembled below.
Trump, still contagious and “not out of the woods”, according to his medical team, walked into the White House without putting his mask back on. Trump came back after three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was being treated for COVID-19.
“If you have a problem wearing masks and have a problem avoiding crowds, we can have a serious situation as we get into Fall and the winter”, Fauci said at a ticketed event Monday night, as the sun went down on Washington DC.
Fauci has steered clear from Trump-centered soundbites and especially so after the president got infected. On Monday, at a pre-scheduled event, he warned about the dangers of throwing caution “to the wind.” He did not mention Trump by name and refused to be drawn into hypotheticals about the US president.
“I don’t want to sound preachy, but you have to almost preach. These are the things that have to be done. You can’t just let the question go to the wind and let people wind up getting infected because we’ll never get that baseline down.”
Despite Trump’s COVID diagnosis landing in the final bend of the 2020 election and his risk factors of age and weight, his tendency to let it all rip hasn’t ebbed. Trump’s spin around the Walter Reed hospital while still contagious has sparked stinging criticism. Jaws dropped all around as Trump struck his maskless pose today at the White House.
“When I saw photographers and others come around him (Trump), I thought I was seeing foul play. That was terrible! This is like inflicting deliberate harm!”, Dr. Esther Choo, Associate Professor, Oregon Health and Science University, told NBC.
With the virus still raging in America, Fauci is at pains to explain to Americans that public health guidelines are not the “enemy”.
“The enemy is not the public health mandate. The enemy is the virus. Let’s get that clear but it seems that that’s not how things are rolling out.”
As Trump played to the cameras Monday, Fauci was explaining how Australia had its mildest flu season in memory because of widespread masking and social distancing brought on by lessons from dealing with COVID-19.
In the US, which has the world’s highest caseload, Trump has avoided masks, called them “optional”, undercut public health guidelines, drummed up superspreader events within and outside the White House and even went on a spin to greet supporters outside Walter Reed Hospital while he was still contagious.
Dr. James P. Phillips, MD , Chief of Disaster Medicine, GWU Emergency Medicine, lashed out. “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID-19 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.”
Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at risk of serious complications. He is being treated with the entire kitchen sink of COVID-19 therapeutics.
Trump is currently on a 5 day course of remdesivir and is also being given dexamethasone. Remdesivir curbs the virus’ ability to multiply. Last Friday, Trump also got a single dose of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals that supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus.
Since Trump first got word, back in late January, on the virus’ march Westwards, more than 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. The United States has the world’s highest coronavirus caseload, currently at over 7.4 million.