Trump’s positive COVID result is a reality check

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  • Trump has tested positive for COVID-19, which means he now faces another test – a reality check.
  • Weeks before the election, we’ll see if Trump can come to terms with his diagnosis and change his behavior.
  • World leaders have already tested positive. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fell ill he began to take the pandemic seriously and saved lives. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has done the opposite and the death toll from COVID in Brazil is around 145,000.
  • Trump may have to choose between continuing his campaign and accepting reality. But only if he’s lucky, sometimes COVID is so fierce that it doesn’t offer a choice.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump has contracted COVID-19, and now we’ll see if he can accept this diagnosis and proceed accordingly.

Think of this as yet another reality test in a series of reality tests for Trump during this pandemic – most of which have failed. Failure here – so close to an election and with a subject at the forefront of every American’s mind – could have dire consequences for the Trump campaign. Worse yet, it puts the president’s life in danger.

Trump reality test

The fact that Trump contracted the disease is, in itself, a failed test. The disease has reached the White House due to the administration’s tenuous relationship with reality. Although they know the contagious nature of the virus, Trump and his staff have not changed their behavior. Many White House staff and officials avoided masks, and Trump was still holding rallies and continuing to meet in person and indoors with donors as recently as Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s positive COVID test “very sad.” But also pointed out that Trump’s behavior was a “cheeky invitation” for disease to enter his camp. That’s what he did. It’s a giant reality test that failed.

Now that Trump himself is sick, he faces a new reality test that two world leaders already passed earlier this year. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted the coronavirus at one point. And they walked away from the experience with two very different relationships with reality in this pandemic.

Johnson fell so ill he ended up in intensive care. In the wake of the illness, he completely reversed the UK government’s flippant response to the virus and took it seriously. After a first peak in spring, the UK was able to flatten the curve over the summer. 42,000 people have died from COVID-19 nationwide and, as cases rise again, 59 people died from the disease on Thursday – well outside the peak. The government has also responded to the surge in cases with new restrictions to contain the virus.

Conversely, even though he himself contracted the coronavirus, the Brazilian Bolsonaro has never been able to accept the pandemic as a reality. He insisted it was just a “cold snap” and joined Trump in touting hydroxychloroquine – a malaria drug not proven to fight COVID-19 – as a treatment. And now, the death toll from COVID-19 in Brazil is around 145,000 and the country has the second highest death rate per 100,000 population in the world. The number of new and new deaths has remained tragically stable and as of Thursday alone 728 people have died from the virus.

And a reality test for the nation

American citizens are also facing a new reality test, and since the news of the positive test results of Trump and his wife Melania, some are already failing. Some people think Trump’s COVID result is wrong – a plot created by the campaign, or by the White House, or by the Russians or by aliens. We are in 2020. We are in the midst of one of the worst global confidence deficits since World War II. It seems natural to doubt such important news. The timing, some argue, seems too convenient.

But consider this: do you really think that just weeks before the most important election in modern American history, Donald Trump – a candidate who thrives on crowd adulation – wants to move the next ten to 14? days in the White House reading magazines with Melania? No. This country has to face the truth, even if the president will not.

It’s real. The global pandemic is real. The fact that it is out of control in the United States is real, and “reality has a way of asserting itself,” someone said. This time, he is asserting himself through Trump’s diagnosis.

We’ll see if the President can accept this when his campaign is on the line. Or it is possible that his illness is so severe that he will have no choice. For now, it is too early to tell, the virus is controlling this outcome. Meanwhile, a spokesperson said the rest of the White House will continue with the same procedures that got them in this mess – which is wrong.

A US president has paid a heavy price for doubting the veracity of a pandemic before. During the 1918-19 flu, President Woodrow Wilson ignored the flu even though he and his White House contracted the disease. Some historians suggest that, because Wilson was so ill, he was unable to advocate for more lenient conditions for the Germans in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.

We know how it happened. Pandemics have consequences.



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