I have to admit, it took longer than I expected. For the men and women who surrounded President Trump and took no real precautions, coronavirus took a while to arrive.
In press conferences, members of the Trump administration could often be seen failing to adhere to social distancing guidelines. I can’t think of a single instance in which I saw members of the administration in masks or personal protection gear of any sort, even when they were in visibly risky situations (like, say, a hospital populated with coronavirus patients, or a mask factory where they were surrounded by many other people). Still, the president and the members of his team were tested for Covid-19 regularly, and, until last week, everyone tested negative.
I repeat: until last week. Because last week, those negatives became positives in very important ways. One of the president’s personal valets tested positive on Thursday, followed by Katie Miller, press secretary to Vice President Pence, on Friday. Then came members of the Secret Service. Nobody knows where the original exposure came from. The vice president is now self-quarantining, and it remains to be seen how many other members of the administration have been exposed and infected, and how dangerous this will prove to the upper levels of government as we try to right our ship.
Although it may feel like a pressure release to some to see the president finally feeling the real effects of a disease that so many on the ground have felt for months, what I see is no more than a mirror. The mess rendered in the United States is reflected in Trump’s own White House: he has suggested that no one needs to wear masks, that federal mandates for social distancing and shutdowns are unnecessary, and that this crisis was never really that severe to begin with. The truth is that he could have avoided going viral in his very own home if he had abided by some pretty simple rules. More broadly, he could have saved a lot of lives in this country if he had only taken immediate action and directed Americans to abide by some pretty simple rules three months ago.
There is nothing to celebrate here when the economy, as The New York Times reported on Saturday, has now dipped to lows not seen since the Great Depression. We are now a ship with no captain (some may argue that we never had a captain to begin with, but that’s neither here nor there). Should the president become ill, the next in line to assume the role is the vice president, and both men have now been exposed to coronavirus. That exposure, of course, was born of their own failure to follow the recommendations set forth by members of the medical and scientific communities — like Dr Anthony Fauci, himself a member of their own administration.
Other countries are improving. Other countries will surely survive. Ours may suffer even more needless death, due to an egomaniac’s lack of action, which is all now playing itself out in real time. If you doubted the power of social distancing and mask-wearing two weeks ago, you can see its impact today, as a president and vice president who took zero precautions now cower in the face of their own mortality. I wish them no ill, but I find it fitting that this disease has finally found its way to their doorstep. While we have learned that coronavirus is no equalizer, in that it has unjustly targeted minorities and the poor — the people who have been unable to properly isolate due to their front-line jobs or inadequate housing, or who have health conditions brought on by systemic poverty and racism — we have also learned that ignoring science is a baseline. The grim reaper does not buy into the conspiracy theory of drinking bleach.
Trump’s moniker of Teflon Don may, ultimately apply here, too. I won’t be surprised if he somehow survives the pandemic unscathed. But his closest allies — the ones who share his most intimate spaces — are now just as likely to become infected as the rest of us Americans, who have fallen victim to his poor policies and ignorant decisions. The White House is supposed to be the most sealed and protected place in the United States, and it just proved itself porous. What does that say about the fate awaiting the rest of us?
In this pandemic, President Trump has botched absolutely everything from the top down, and now even those in his innermost circle are suffering because of it. His White House is our mirror. As we crumble out here, he crumbles in there, too. If only it were not too late for this lesson to mean anything of import.
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