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Trump’s tweet angers pandemic survivors

8 min read

SEATTLE (AP) — Dizzy with a soaring fever and unable to breathe, Scott Sedlacek had one thing going for him: He was among the first people to be treated for COVID-19 at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, and the doctors and nurses were able to give him plenty of attention.

The 64-year-old recovered after being treated with a bronchial nebulizer in March, but the ensuing months have done little to dull the trauma of his illness. Hearing of President Donald Trump’s advice by Tweet and video on Monday not to fear the disease — as well as the president’s insistence on riding in a motorcade outside Walter Reed Medical Center and returning to the White House while still infectious — enraged him.

“I’m so glad that he appears to be doing well, that he has doctors who can give him experimental drugs that aren’t available to the masses,” Sedlacek said. “For the rest of us, who are trying to protect ourselves, that behavior is an embarrassment.”

COVID-19 has infected about 7.5 million Americans, leaving more than 210,000 dead and millions more unemployed, including Sedlacek. The U.S. has less than 5% of the globe’s population but more than 20% of the reported deaths.

Yet the world’s highest-profile coronavirus patient tweeted on Monday, as he was due to be released from the hospital following a three-day stay: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

He reiterated the message in a video Monday night, saying “Be careful,” but “don’t let it dominate you.”

“You’re going to beat it,” he said. “We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines.”

The advice fit in with Trump’s downplaying of the virus, his ridiculing of those who wear masks to protect themselves and others, and his insistence on holding rallies and White House events in contravention of federal guidelines. But emergency room doctors, public health experts, survivors of the disease and those who have lost loved ones were nevertheless aghast, saying his cavalier words were especially dangerous at a time when infections are on the rise in many places.

Marc Papaj, a Seneca Nation member who lives in Orchard Park, New York, lost his mother, grandmother and aunt to COVID-19. He was finding it tough to follow the president’s advice not to let the virus “dominate your life.”

“The loss of my dearest family members will forever dominate my life in every way for all of my days,” Papaj said, adding this about Trump: “He does not care about any of us — he’s feeling good.”

Dr. Tien Vo, who has administered more than 40,000 coronavirus tests at his clinics in California’s Imperial County, had this to say: “Oh, my Lord. That’s a very bad recommendation from the president.”

19 PHOTOSPresident Trump's supporters outside the Walter Reed hospitalSee GalleryPresident Trump's supporters outside the Walter Reed hospitalBETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Young supporters hold up signs wishing President Donald Trump good health outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)President Donald Turmp supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)Supporters of President Donald Trump drive past the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump went to the hospital Friday after testing positive for COVID-19.(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday October 04, 2020 in Bethesda, MD. Trump flew to Walter Reed on Friday as he battles Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: A supporter of President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as they drive by fellow supporters as they gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday October 04, 2020 in Bethesda, MD. Trump flew to Walter Reed on Friday as he battles Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate without face masks at the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital Friday after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)Supporters of President Donald Trump, most not wearing masks, gather and hold signs near an entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump went to the hospital Friday after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)President Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)President Donald Turmp supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday October 04, 2020 in Bethesda, MD. Trump flew to Walter Reed on Friday as he battles Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)President Donald Turmp supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump’s sand sculpture is seen with their health recovery message as it is creating by sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik at the Bay of Bengal Sea’s eastern coast beach at Puri, 65 km away from the eastern Indian state Odisha’s capital city Bhubaneswar,on October 04, 2020. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)04 October 2020, US, Bethesda: Dan Golden, a supporter of US President Donald Trump, stands with a flag opposite the entrance to the Walter Reed Military Hospital. Donald Trump, who was infected with the corona virus together with his wife Melania, was transferred to the hospital on Friday. Photo: Can Merey/dpa (Photo by Can Merey/picture alliance via Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump honk their horn and wave the national flag as they drive past Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: A man poses for a photo next to a cardboard cutout of First Lady Melania Trump outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where President Donald Trump and the First Lady where admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump honk their horn and wave the national flag as they drive past Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: A police officer pushes back a supporter of President Donald Trump who ran up to the window of a car to yell at a woman that said Black Lives Matter outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)Up Next

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The county is a farming region along the Mexican border that, at one point, had California’s highest infection rate. Its 180,000 residents are largely Latino and low-income, groups that have suffered disproportionately from the virus. Cases overwhelmed its two hospitals in May.

“The president has access to the best medical care in the world, along with a helicopter to transport him to the hospital as needed,” Dr. Janet Baseman, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, wrote in an email. “The rest of us who don’t have such ready access to care should continue to worry about covid, which has killed a million people around the world in just a handful of months.”

Trump supporters still not convinced about the threat

Some of Trump’s supporters said they wouldn’t be swayed by the White House outbreak: Wearing a mask is a choice, and to mandate its use limits freedom, said Melissa Blundo, chairwoman of the “No Mask Nevada” PAC.

“I’m not saying the coronavirus isn’t real. I’m not saying that it isn’t a pandemic,” she said. “I believe tuberculosis could be called a pandemic when it kills a person every 21 seconds, but we haven’t shut down the entire world. I just find it interesting that we are taking this particular pandemic and shutting down economies.”

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show 8,920 cases of tuberculosis in 2019. In 2017, the most recent year it reported deaths, 515 died from the bacterial lung infection.

Candy Boyd, the owner of Boyd Funeral Home in Los Angeles, which serves many Black families, said Trump’s comments were infuriating and an “example of him not living in reality.” The funeral home receives fewer virus victims now than it did in the spring, when it was several a day, but people continue to die, she said.

“We have people dying and this is a joke to him,” Boyd said. “I don’t take that lightly. This is sad. This is absurd.”

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