Sunday, October 4, 2020

California, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming


What did Donald Trump do today?

He went for a little ride.

Trump has spent much of his time in the hospital—or at least the parts he's been conscious and alert for—trying to convince voters that he feels fine and is "working." For example, on Friday, the White House released photos of Trump in two different rooms wearing two different sets of clothes, creating the appearance that he had spent the whole first day in the hospital doing paperwork. But metadata embedded in the photos suggests the pictures were taken only ten minutes apart.

Trump released another very short video today in which he claimed he now "gets it," having experienced COVID firsthand and "learned a lot."

Then, moments after the video was posted (it's not clear when it was recorded), he went for a ride in his motorcade around the outside of the hospital complex. Video of the event shows Trump able to at least wave to the crowds of supporters and protestors gathered outside. There were a number of people, presumably Secret Service agents, in the car with Trump.

The heavily armored vehicles used to transport presidents are, for practical purposes, airtight. Masks or no, continually breathing in air exhaled in such a small space by an actively ill COVID-19 patient is very risky. When medical staff treats a COVID-19 positive patient in much larger rooms with negative airflow, they wear medical-grade personal protective equipment—assuming they have any left.

Needless to say, the trip went against CDC guidelines and all medical good sense. Most of the 210,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19 were no less contagious than Trump, but could not be joined by loved ones for fear of spreading the virus.

Reaction to Trump's exposing his protective detail followed immediately from former Secret Service agents, medical experts (including one who works at Walter Reed), and the general public. It was harsh.

In a break with protocol not seen even during 9/11, the designated White House press pool reporter was not notified. Trump's staff seemed largely out of the loop, too. 

Trump's sudden and apparently impulsive decision to go for a ride raised questions about whether his judgment was being affected. Trump's doctors acknowledged today that he has been put on dexamethasone, a powerful steroid given exclusively to COVID-19 patients in severe respiratory distress. High doses of steroids can lead to behavior changes, including manic behavior and delirium

Low blood oxygenation levels can also affect mood and judgment. Trump's doctors today acknowledged two sudden drops in his blood oxygen level, but evaded questions about how low it had gotten, except to deny that it had gotten as low as the "low 80s." A blood oxygen level below 90 would be more than enough to affect Trump's cognitive function.

Why is this a problem?

  • Nothing gives the president the right to needlessly endanger the people who protect him.
  • It's wrong for the president to mislead voters about his health.
  • A president who is on mood-altering drugs and struggling to breathe is in no condition to discharge the powers of the office.
  • Past a certain point, trying too hard to project strength only advertises weakness.