President Donald Trump’s startling COVID-19 diagnosis serves as a cruel reminder of the pervasive spread of the coronavirus and shows how tenuous of a grip the nation has on the crisis, health experts said.
With U.S. infections rising for several weeks, Trump was one of about 40,000 Americans who learned they had tested positive when he broke the news early Friday. The president went through a “very concerning” period Friday and the next 48 hours “will be critical” for his care, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Saturday.
It was dramatically different than the rosy assessment from Trump’s staff and doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before he went to a military hospital. Some of Trump’s top advisers and allies also have tested positive recently.
“No one is entirely out of the virus’s reach, even those supposedly inside a protective bubble,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
Eight months after the virus first reached the United States, worrying signals mounted of what’s ahead this fall. The NFL has postponed two games after players on three teams have tested positive. Some hospitals in Wisconsin have run low on space, and experts warned of a likely surge in infections during the colder months ahead. Some economists say it could take as long as late 2023 for the job market to fully recover.
The U.S. leads the world in numbers of confirmed infections, with more than 7 million, and deaths, with more than 208,000. Only a handful of countries rank higher in COVID-19 deaths per capita.
“The statistics are so mindboggling, they make us numb to the reality of just how painful, unacceptable and absurd this is,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson, board chairman of the nonpartisan Health Policy Alliance in Washington. “Every single American must double down on their vigilance. If we don’t, then we are being foolhardy and irresponsible.”
Wallace Clark, 50, of Springfield, Illinois, said he was flummoxed by the president’s diagnosis but hopes it makes other people realize that they need to take the pandemic seriously.