Everybody in America should be outraged. But first, allow me to put outrage into personal context. You, too, may know others close to you whose situations apply.
A family loved one has a kidney condition. While not imminently critical, it’s serious enough that she followed nephrologists’ recommendation to enlist herself as a transplant candidate. Two immediate family members took blood tests to determine if either might be donor candidates. One is not compatible and the other is awaiting test results. (Full disclosure: I’m ineligible due to cardiac issues and relatively advanced age.)
This was concerning enough before the COVID-19 pandemic. But as hospitals in New York, where both donor candidates live, became overwhelmed, we learned that coronavirus patients placed on ventilators often also require dialysis. This resulted in critically ill kidney patients, unaffected by the virus, going untreated in a timely manner due to shortages of dialysis devices.
Thankfully, as the peak of the crisis subsides, for now, dialysis is again available to kidney patients regardless of positive or negative coronavirus status.
It’s terrible that doctors and nurses are put in positions of playing God to decide who’s most in need of dialysis and/or ventilators. But here’s the outrage, obscene in its flaunting: The simple courtesy of wearing a mask in public spaces while we’re all potential pandemic spreaders is beyond Trump’s warped sense of human decency. Because he literally and figuratively thumbs his bare nose at his own White House guidelines for “mitigation” that probably saved tens of thousands of lives—even as we approach 100,000 deaths due to this virus—Trump encourages fellow Americans, by his wishfully delusional example, to be reckless as we begin relaxing stay-at-home advisories. The president’s in-your-face arrogance led to an outbreak in his own home as both his valet and a vice-presidential aide tested positive.
To my unofficial account, the president has made only two truthful statements regarding the COVID-19 disaster—other than those scripted for him: “I’m not a doctor.” True. “I’m not going to wear a mask.” True, so far.
Trump believes wearing a mask signals weakness. In other words, he’s a wimp. That’s why before the White House outbreak, almost no one near the Oval Office wore masks. That his valet who serves him meals contracted the virus may account, in part, for Trump’s defiant proclamation that he’s now taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative COVID medication. (Despite zero empirical evidence and against his own FDA recommendations.) Some believe he was telling the truth because until a few weeks ago he relentlessly promoted the medication approved for malaria and lupus. But I suspect his primary motivation had everything to do with the “60 Minutes” interview with Dr. Rick Bright the night before. Bright was until recently the point man in developing vaccines or treatments for COVID. But he was demoted to a less consequential position within the National Institutes for Health due to his reluctance to endorse Trump’s infatuation with this COVID-irrelevant drug.
Bright subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint.
I’ve previously speculated that Trump has a financial interest in hydroxychloroquine. But in this case, his interest in claiming to take the drug as a virus prophylactic seems overtly political. The president spends far too much time watching TV. Besides tweeting about this devastating expert eyewitness account of his incompetent handling of the greatest health crisis of the 21st century, Trump outed himself as a presidential guinea pig just to refute Bright.
We know what he thinks of whistleblowers and inspectors general. We doubt that First Fat-Boy would take medications to prove them wrong. My brief history of covering Donald, the real estate delinquent, suggests he hasn’t the courage even to fire apprentices who aren’t hired for the role of losers.
But my outrage is still focused on the mask issue. People demanding reopening of the economy are not wrong to be impatient. I can’t wait to go to my next baseball game or Broadway musical. We’re not close to that yet.
One protester near my old Long Island neighborhood shouted to a TV reporter, “You stopped covering the president’s briefings” in favor of interviewing Dr. Anthony Fauci, as if he were the enemy. Truth is, Trump stopped the briefings because advisers told him it wasn’t working for him.
At his next press conference, maybe Trump will say he’s taking Lysol to prevent COVID-19. He’ll blame the virus on Obama, Biden, Hillary, Comey, Mueller—the usual suspects. If you believe him, after all these death-baiting lies, shame on you. Because of the president’s careless disregard for safety in his remarks, focusing on what he calls a political hoax against his re-election, Americans may stop paying attention to necessary precautions.
What I wish for the next presidential event at which masks are required for everyone else is that Trump be required to wear one. If not, Mr. President, you can retire to a virtual appearance off premises. Period.
You never got it, Mr. President. This is NOT and NEVER WAS, about YOU. Almost everyone else gets it. I see it among my neighbors and I’m grateful for their respect to others. When they stop getting it, many more of us will die unnecessarily. It will be on you, Mr. President. Everyone knows you’ve been exposed to the virus. Everyone knows you don’t trust tests or understand anything about a positive or negative one day to the next. You wouldn’t know a vaccine from a vasectomy. Given your massive ignorance and incompetence, wear a damn mask or sequester yourself in front of your TV screens and tweet yourself into virtual oblivion, where you belong..
Steve Parks is a retired New York journalist now living in Easton.