The departure of the hospital president despite his coronavirus infection adds a new quota of uncertainty to an already confused country
In announcing his own discharge from hospital on Monday, US President Donald Trump launched striking advice: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it rule your life, ”he tweeted.
Trump thus relativized the danger of a coronavirus that has already killed more than 210,000 people in your country -the most affected in the world- and that he sent him to the hospital on Friday with a high fever and a drop in his oxygen levels.
Despite the assurance that Trump tried to convey about his release from the hospital and return to the White House, maintaining that he feels “really good”, the uncertainty about his health is still great.
His doctors and collaborators have avoided clearly answering basic questions about when the president found out he was sick, or if the images of his lungs show damage from Covid-19.
Nor is it known how Trump will lead the government of the greatest planetary power from a White House with a growing outbreak of coronavirus cases and with himself still in danger, according to his doctor, Sean Conley.
Confusion has been a frequent feature of the Trump administration, but the US has entered a strange level of bewilderment amid the pandemic and less than a month before the presidential election.
“I think this is a collapse of the truth,” says Andrew Norris, a professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara and co-author of the book “Truth and Democracy”, to BBC Mundo.
“State of crisis”
Trump has sought to challenge reality since the day he assumed the presidency.
His claim that the event was attended by the “largest audience in the history of the opening speeches” collided with evidence showing otherwise.
Then-presidential aide Kellyanne Conway argued that they were “alternative facts,” prompting journalist Chuck Todd to warn her that “alternative facts are not facts: they are falsehoods.”
But Trump kept up his attempts to establish different narratives: from contradicting his intelligence agencies about Russia’s interference in the elections he won in 2016, to downplaying the coronavirus this year.
The president challenged the experts in his own government, for example by saying that the virus would disappear as a “miracle” or suggesting treatments for COVID-19 without scientific basis; and more recently he resumed the massive campaign events for his re-election.
Now he, his wife Melania, his press secretary, Conway herself, his campaign manager and other Republican advisers and senators have tested positive for COVID-19.
Many of these infections are suspected to have occurred during an event at the White House in late September due to Trump’s nomination of the judge Amy coney barrett to the Supreme Court of Justice.
But, in another sign of disinterest in establishing the facts based on the advice of science, the White House has avoided tracking the contacts of those who attended that event.
The fact that Trump’s doctors avoid revealing when the president last tested negative for COVID-19 also does not help shed light on what happened.
And that the president has once again downplayed the virus before leaving the hospital seems to ruin the possibility that he will correct his handling of the pandemic, despite the fact that more than 20 states in the country record increases in infections.
Norris compares that the coronavirus has already claimed many more American lives than the Vietnam War, but this time there is no change in the government’s course.
“It seems to me that we are in a state of crisis that will last for some time, and I am not sure how we are going to get out,” he reflects. “The real crisis is the collapse of effective governance in this country and the emergence of a politics of movements that ignores the truth.”
“There is a risk”
Conley, Trump’s doctor, said on Monday afternoon that “in the last 24 hours the president continued to improve” and “met or exceeded all standard criteria for hospital discharge.”
Americans measure the credibility of that doctor, who on Sunday admitted to having presented public opinion with an optimistic picture of Trump’s situation.
He justified it by suggesting that he was seeking to satisfy the president: “He did not want to give any information that could divert the course of the disease.”
Now Trump, still on drugs and steroids recommended for severe cases of covid-19, has been discharged from hospital before the seven to ten days marked as crucial by doctors to know the evolution of the patients.
Conley himself gave a pattern of the uncertainty posed by Trump’s disease, whose 74 years and moderate obesity make him a patient at greater risk.
“If we can get to Monday with him the same or even better, then we will all breathe that last sigh of relief,” he said.
Trump made his departure from Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, a political event in itself.
“We will return to the Campaign Path soon !!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls, ”he tweeted in reference to the polls that put him several points behind his Democratic rival Joe biden at the national level.
As he left the hospital he saluted, shook his right fist forcefully and raised his thumb.
And, after arriving at the White House by helicopter and climbing some stairs, he removed the face mask that he was wearing and that he has often avoided wearing in public.
“Do not let the virus dominate you,” he insisted in a video later recorded without referring to the 210,000 deaths.
But there are more open questions with the countdown to the November 3 elections: what care or limitations will Trump have now? When and how will the campaign resume?
And will Republicans achieve their purpose of confirming Judge Barrett and installing a solid conservative majority on the Court despite two of their senators testing positive for coronavirus?
Trump has better health care than the vast majority of Americans who have suffered from COVID-19, but in the video recorded when he arrived at the White House, he maintained that he made a risky decision.
“No one who is a leader would not do what I did. And I know there is a risk, a danger, but it’s okay. And now I’m better. And maybe I’m immune, I don’t know, ”he said, although science is still investigating whether those who recover from COVID-19 actually develop immunity.