When the coronavirus jumped from bats to humans in a wet market in Wuhan, China, last year, a unique and deadly bug went viral. Viruses are respected and feared by epidemiologists for their ability to spread quickly and mindlessly through unprotected populations. As if to prove how vulnerable every single one of us is, President Trump and his wife tested positive last week.
On every level, the pandemic is a national tragedy, but the greatest heartbreak is that it never had to be this bad. We need and want our president to be healthy and robust. He might have remained so if he had followed the guidelines from his medical experts. They urged him to be more self-protective and more protective of the people around him. Week after week, month after month, epidemiologists and other scientists have been warning us and cajoling us and sometimes begging us to take basic precautions against Covid-19, which got a foothold in America in January and never quit.
The doctors told us, and they told the president, that easy, protective measures could be taken to mitigate the fierce death toll that was predicted. Trump chose to play down the warnings, to defy medical advice, to challenge common sense and common knowledge. All this time, leading up to his infection, he refused to wear a mask and keep a social distance from others. He insisted on bringing thousands of people together for political rallies, without requiring them to mask up. He held events at the White House, including his nomination for a second term, with no rules about wearing masks or staying six feet apart.
The week before last, at the Rose Garden nominating ceremony for the president’s choice for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, the Trumps mingled with guests and White House staff, with the president leading the mask-free contingent. There was hugging and back-slapping. Within days, Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis; the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and several other attendees announced that they had tested positive for Covid-19.
We will never know whether it was bravado or fear or defiance that motivated his choices, but Trump’s insistence on encouraging others to throw away their masks with their common sense has resulted in more deaths and more pain than we can bear.
He so easily could have saved lives. He could have led the country by example, bringing Americans together in a united effort to wear protective gear and respect social distancing. Every day on the campaign trail, he exposed his staff and the people at his rallies to the rampaging virus. By deriding those who wore masks, he contributed mightily to the problem.
We are now beyond 200,000 deaths in the U.S. Psychologists tell us the number is difficult to conceptualize. Human beings can understand one death, in its sad and intimate details. But 200,000? It short-circuits our imagination.
The Washington Post ran a story to help readers visualize and appreciate the immensity of the human loss we have suffered. You click on a website and put in your Zip code, and you see a map with your location as ground zero for the disease, and then 200,000 dots, representing Covid-19 victims, on the map surrounding your home. When I did it, my entire hometown of Woodmere was wiped out, along with villages and towns north, south, east and west. Looking at that map with no living souls within miles made the loss very real. It looked as if a nuclear weapon had detonated, with my home as the target.
It is sad to contemplate the enormity of our national tragedy, especially now with our president at risk. The coronavirus has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, in part because leadership chose not to listen to advice from experts who train all their lives to combat rogue epidemics.
The president’s choices have been costly, to himself and his family, but mostly to the people of the United States. Now that he is sick, he is getting state-of-the-art care and treatment that should be, but isn’t, available to every American who gets sick with the virus.
The Secret Service spends millions of our tax dollars to keep the president and his family safe. Yet he has put himself, his wife and countless others in mortal danger by refusing to wear a cheap mask.
Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.