Health Letter, July 2020
By Michael Carome, M.D.
If you’re not outraged,
you’re not paying attention!
Read what Public Citizen has to say about the biggest blunders and outrageous offenses in the world of public health, published monthly in Health Letter.
By the end of May, it was hard to imagine President Donald Trump’s disastrously chaotic and inept response to the coronavirus pandemic becoming any worse. Nevertheless, like a modern-day Typhoid Mary, Trump over the past few weeks has deliberately fanned the flames of the pandemic throughout the U.S. with rhetoric and actions that were increasingly reckless and reprehensible.
In terms of his rhetoric, the President continues to repeatedly deny the severity of the ongoing pandemic raging across the country. For example, on June 15, favoring a head-in-the-sand approach to this public health crisis, Trump left public health experts flabbergasted when he told reporters in the White House Cabinet Room, “We’re at a low mark…If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
Two days later, when told by a reporter that the number of coronavirus cases was rising in 22 states and then asked whether he worried about people getting sick if they attended his upcoming rally in Tulsa, Trump dismissively replied, “No, because if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what [they were]. It’s dying out.” Yet on June 17, the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. exceeded 25,000, and the number of confirmed deaths was 836 — hardly “miniscule” numbers, with the only thing “dying out” being several thousand coronavirus patients each week.
But most disturbing was Trump’s reprehensible decision to resume his trademark indoor rallies for the first time since the early days of the pandemic. On June 20, the President contemptuously disregarded the advice and guidelines of his own public health experts and proceeded with a large indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., that was attended by more than 6,000 people. Prior to the rally, local public health officials were sounding the alarm as the number of daily new reported coronavirus cases in Oklahoma and Tulsa had increased dramatically.
Indeed, the hazards of proceeding with the rally were thrown into sharp relief when six Trump staffers involved in planning the Tulsa rally tested positive for the coronavirus early on the day of the event. Most of the rallygoers were packed together, ignoring social distancing guidelines, and few wore face masks, which have been shown to decrease the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
Seemingly hell-bent on spreading the coronavirus further, Trump held a second large indoor rally on June 23 in Phoenix, Ariz., another area of the country where new coronavirus cases are surging. The mayor of Phoenix urged the President to at least set an example by wearing a mask at the rally, but to no avail. As in Tulsa, thousands of people at the Phoenix rally jammed together in an indoor venue, and few wore face masks.
What makes Trump’s words and deeds so dangerous is that they encourage his millions of avid supporters to intentionally flout the guidelines on social distancing, avoidance of large indoor gatherings and wearing face masks in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain — the key proven public health measures for containing the pandemic and saving lives until a vaccine or breakthrough treatment is developed and widely available. Many other people, confused by the President’s words and deeds, undoubtedly will become lax in complying with these lifesaving measures.
President Trump ought to face charges of criminal negligence. Thanks to his willfully reckless behavior, we are going to see thousands of preventable deaths from the coronavirus.