- Yes, Mr. President, the virus may be something you don’t fear. But you should; because it will cost you dearly this election.
Don’t fear the coronavirus is the advice given by the President of the United States, a country that has had 7.8 million cases and 215,000 deaths, to date. As a physician who worked on the frontlines during the worst days of the pandemic, not fearing the virus is not only unwise but irresponsible advice from the leader of the free world.
COVID-19 is still very real. From being hospitalized, to being sick at home, to being completely asymptomatic, the virus affects everyone differently and is unpredictable. Respect the seriousness of the virus and lives can be saved. Perhaps, we should fear the leadership of the President of the United States more than the virus itself.
In order to protect the health and safety of those involved in the presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced a virtual event due to the President contracting COVID-19. Donald Trump’s response, “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate.” Apparently, keeping people safe is a waste of time.
People still need to stay safe or dire consequences will result. A patient was diagnosed three weeks ago with COVID-19. She lost her sense of smell and taste. With severe diarrhea and myalgias, her fevers improved but she is left with extreme exhaustion. She so badly desires to be her old energetic self, but so far, she is in bed by 3 pm daily from debilitating fatigue. Meanwhile, her mother contracted the virus and is hospitalized struggling to breathe. Her father, also positive for COVID-19, is completely asymptomatic.
Everyone hopes to be the latter, the asymptomatic patient but unfortunately, that is not guaranteed. The reason the virus has slowed down is due to the decrease in viral load transmission which is directly related to social distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing. If these mitigation tactics are ignored, we will be right back where we started. The Rose Garden super spreader event is a catastrophic example of how dismissing public health guidelines will result in a COVID-19 outbreak.
And outbreaks continue to happen. A patient lost her mother, father, brother and best friend to COVID-19 as a result of a wedding. Another patient can’t go back to work because she continues to have upper respiratory symptoms and a positive test after going to a gathering without a mask. Just today, a patient was in tears over the controversy of the virus. “Nobody knows how to treat me!” She survived the virus but has so many remaining symptoms. “I’m afraid of getting a blood clot or never fully recovering,” This virus has caused sickness in the human body, the economy and in the minds and hearts of the grieving.
Should doctors tell patients who are still mourning, battling with symptoms, who lost their jobs, are struggling with anxiety and depression that COVID-19 shouldn’t dominate their lives as the President suggests?
The President may say COVID-19 isn’t so bad, yet it caused the most powerful man in the world to be hospitalized, require treatment, which included an experimental drug not available to everyone. He has the best healthcare in the world at his fingertips. So yes, if you are the President of the United States, COVID-19 may be nothing to fear, yet the President himself was not immune to catching the virus despite his claimed cure of hydroxychloroquine.
His behavior of inconsistently wearing a mask caused an outbreak with, to date, 34 people unnecessarily getting sick. He ridiculed and politicized a science based public health recommendation to wear a mask and it cost lives. He is now putting White House staff members at risk by refusing to quarantine. The virus is preventable, it’s not inevitable. Sickness and death need to be prevented, not expected.
As a healthcare worker who was deemed a hero, I will never forget the national shortage on PPE, testing, medications, and ventilators. States were left to fend for themselves and compete with one another for supplies. I will never forget the fear in the eyes of patients who lost their lives; the pain in the shaking voice of family members who couldn’t say goodbye to their loved ones and the staggering number of deaths pronounced each night.
Michigan reported the highest hospitalization rate in the past 5 months. The number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan has risen to 149,000 as of Oct 12th, including 7,221 deaths. The President’s reckless refusal to quarantine is a total failure of leadership. The fundamental job of the Commander-in-Chief is to protect the American people. Instead, he demands an in-person debate when it’s very possible he could still be infectious putting others at risk. Doctors tell their patients to quarantine, to avoid in-person events, and wear a mask, meanwhile Donald Trump plays by his own rules. He cancels a national virtual debate when Americans across the world have been adapting to virtual platforms including children expected to learn from home.
There are many tragedies under this administration that could have been prevented with simple transparency and adherence to science. The COVID-19 response in this country has been incompetent. It’s something the American people should never forget. So yes, Mr. President, the virus may be something you don’t fear. But you should; because it will cost you dearly this election.
(Top photo: Dr. Asha Shajahan working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic doing homeless outreach.)
Dr. Asha Shajahan is a writer, podcaster and primary care physician in Detroit, Michigan.