We don’t know what course COVID-19 will take with Donald Trump. The White House insists he is well, even as the barrage of aggressive and even experimental treatments he’s received suggests his case is more severe than they let on.
But we do know that if anyone with the virus—not to mention someone with Trump’s increased risk factors—has a good chance of pulling through, it’s him.
Trump is tested regularly, so he knew at the earliest possible moment that he was infected (even if he didn’t wear a mask or cancel public events afterward). He has doctors at his side, with their sole focus on him and his wife. He has access to all available treatments and even to treatments that aren’t yet available to the public.
Unlike millions of Americans, Trump didn’t have to wait for symptoms to qualify for a test. He didn’t have to wait until he was very sick before being hospitalized to get care. He doesn’t have to choose between taking care of his family or taking care of his disease.
He isn’t poor (although it seems possible he owes more than he’s worth). He isn’t undocumented, so he isn’t barred by his public charge rule from accessing services. He isn’t Black or Brown, so systems of White privilege increase his chances of survival. He isn’t in the one in three households with children who are now food and/or housing insecure in the U.S. because of the pandemic and recession.
He isn’t one of the 12 million Americans who lost their health coverage because they lost their job during the pandemic. Indeed, Trump’s taxpayer-funded care won’t cost him a dime, especially because he paid virtually no taxes at all for more than a decade.
And, he hasn’t lost his job—yet.
All things considered, Trump’s prognosis is statistically brighter than nearly any other American diagnosed with COVID-19 in his age group—to say nothing of the more than 200,000 who have already died from it on his watch.
So if he has been cavalier about not only catching the virus but also about spreading it to others, can we really blame him? Yes, we can.
Though we can feel sympathy for anyone who contracts a dangerous virus, we must also recognize Trump’s callous disregard of the science of the disease, the safety measures necessary to reduce the risk for oneself and for others, and the bare minimum measures that would have made the pandemic much easier for ordinary people to endure.
Trump’s mockery of masks is well-known—his campaign even mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask after the White House COVID-19 outbreak—and the president has admitted downplaying the seriousness of the virus for months. He has even stoked a culture among his base where the idea that the coronavirus is merely a “hoax” is prevalent.
Perhaps worst of all is the administration’s utter lack of regard for the health, safety, and economic well-being of the nearly half of all Americans who have reported suffering significant financial pain during this recession.
Not only has the White House refused to agree on a robust and critical second relief package, but it has also not pressured its lapdog GOP-controlled Senate to negotiate a package with Democrats. And even as we speak, Trump’s lawyers are pushing the Supreme Court to throw out the Affordable Care Act—and with it protections for pre-existing conditions (of which Trump himself now has several) as well as coverage for more than 20 million Americans. During a pandemic.
Even during the worst personal health crisis of a sitting U.S. president since Ronald Reagan was shot, we need to center our concern for the millions of people who’ve suffered this horrible virus, none of them with the privileges Trump has enjoyed, as well as the 210,000 who have died as a result of his failure to keep the public safe.
We need to pass legislation to put food on the tables of the tens of millions of hungry families, who have doubled in number since before the pandemic. We need to extend the pandemic unemployment insurance payments that helped people stay off the ledge of the abyss of poverty. We need to pass rental assistance for all those tenants on track to owe $2 billion in back rent by the end of this year.
And we need to pass a single-payer health care plan that will ensure we can all access the gold star health care available to Trump, members of Congress, and the wealthy.
If we’re going to recover from this pandemic, we need policymakers to respect human life and well-being more than the president has.
Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
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