White House Virus Outbreak Brings Confusion And Deception

White House
Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

It's now clear that Donald Trump lied to the nation about when he received a positive test for COVID-19. Trump was known to be ill, showing symptoms, and receiving treatment over a day before publicity around Hope Hicks' diagnosis forced Trump to admit even a sliver of the truth. But if Trump trotting off to Minnesota and New Jersey to get his infectious face up close with supporters seems bad, what's going on at the White House since then seems even worse.

Since Trump was hustled off by helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Center to receive "beyond state of the art" care, a number of White House aides have been seen on camera wearing masks and apparently taking COVID-19 more seriously. But as The Atlantic makes clear, the key phrase is "on camera." Because behind the scenes, nothing has changed. Not only are senior officials still prowling the halls without masks, and without regard for social distancing, they're continuing to act as if nothing has changed—and that disregarding science and lying to the public are the only possible strategies.

One thing that should be hitting Americans like a Category 5 s#it show at this moment: There are no experts to turn to. Trump has spent months attacking and diminishing the FDA and CDC, and in a crisis there seems to be no effort at all to revive their status. But what about the team that Trump himself put together? Where is Dr. Anthony Fauci? Where is Dr. Deborah Birx? Why is it that, at this critical point where Trump is sick, White House aides are sick, and Republican officials up and down the line are reporting more and more positive results in a growing superspreader event, the National Coronavirus Task Force is completely missing in action?

Over at the Daily Beast, an interview with Fauci makes it clear that the coronavirus task force actually stopped being a concern some time ago: "We used to meet seven days a week. Then five days a week. We're now meeting one day a week and at most two times a week," said Fauci. And when the task force does meet, Fauci says they talk more about the economy than the virus. Fauci mentions that Trump still spends a lot of time with retired radiologist Scott Atlas, but since Atlas' job is to promote quackery and downplay the need for testing, he's of limited use in an actual crisis.

The truth is that, after destroying the pandemic response team, Trump created his own COVID-19 team … then destroyed it. There's no longer even a pretense of a national response to the pandemic.

As multiple outlets have reported, even Republican donors can't figure out why Trump and his crew are so dedicated to blowing off COVID-19, even as Trump is tapping an oxygen tank before he heads for the hospital. Those donors aren't exactly thrilled about being part of an indoor meet and greet conducted at a small table more than a day after Trump was aware he had tested positive for the disease.

That Trump's high-speed installation of a Supreme Court justice may be derailed by an outbreak generated after Amy Coney Barrett's introduction, where attendees were told they could take off their masks and mingle, may seem like karma. But it's also just … incomprehensible. Even people with a disdain for science rarely throw themselves off a cliff so that they can own those libs who believe in gravity. So why is Trump and his team so dedicated to ignoring experts, even when the arrow of damage is directed right at them?

Writing on Friday, reporter Peter Nicholas stated that, in the wake of Trump's illness, there appeared to be no sign of a change. There was no more transparency, no more honesty, no more concern about following CDC guidelines, no more effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 even among White House officials. "The practices today seemed every bit as lax," wrote Nicholas. Meanwhile, Mark Meadows stepped outside the White House to talk to reporters and refused to put on a mask. Instead, he said he "gets tested regularly." This was shortly before Trump departed via helicopter.

But at least the nation did get word on Friday that Mike Pence had been sent to one of Trump's golf resorts just in case … he needs to take over golfing. Sure, it's a joke, but in this administration, it comes far too close to the truth.

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