For medics who believe Trump escaped pandemic, narrow election seen as an insult

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In the spring, American medical personnel were called heroes. But by the fall, the rhetoric had started to change, with the public growing increasingly fatigued by the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump accusing doctors of inflating Covid-19 deaths for money.As the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise, many medical workers say they are hoping for a landslide victory for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who has said he will follow scientists’ advice if he wins the presidency.

“Trump has insulted our integrity and allowed more than seven months of chaos and excessive death for Covid,” said Dr. John Purakal, a North Carolina-based emergency doctor. “It’s so surprising to me,” he said. “But here we are. ”

Various polls indicate that the majority of Americans do not approve of the administration’s handling of the coronavirus. In July, only 32% of Americans said they approved of Trump’s pandemic strategy, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In August, 7 in 10 Americans who responded to a CNN poll said the president’s response was embarrassing. NBC comes out of polls on election day and early voting, found 51% of voters believe US efforts to contain the epidemic are going badly.

Biden can still score a victory. But after the Trump administration undermines or contradicts its own medical experts on everything from wearing masks to reopening schools at the start of the epidemic, the close race feels like a slap in the face for many doctors battling the pandemic.

Texas and Florida – where there have so far been more than 960,000 and 827,000 confirmed cases respectively – have firmly opted for Trump even as Democrats believe the outbreak has given them a fighting chance in some red states .

“Many of us now wonder if we are talking in an echo chamber,” said Miami-based Doctor Krishna Komanduri. Miami-Dade County dealt a blow to Biden’s Florida campaign and helped seal the state for Trump.

The economy, not the pandemic, was more of a priority for 70% of Trump voters, according to the NBC poll.

For doctors like Komanduri, the economy and the coronavirus are not separate issues. Successful containment of the virus will lead to fewer restrictions, which will inevitably open up the economy, he said.

“It prompts me to seriously re-analyze how I can make a difference,” added Komanduri, who is the head of transplantation and cell therapy at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I went to bed Tuesday night with a real sense of helplessness and sadness. ”

Of course, not all healthcare workers lean to the left, and many remain strong supporters of the Trump administration. A 2016 study found that 46% of doctors are Republicans. Things appear to have changed over the past four years, however, with recent analyzes indicating that more and more doctors are increasingly aligning themselves with Democrats.

For those who have sided firmly with the Democrats this year, the race has been too close for comfort. And it looks like a slight.

As Purakal points out, hundreds of health workers have died from Covid-19 and countless more have been infected.

“I really thought that our experiences in the trenches would impact people’s voting decisions,” added Dr. Avital O’Glasser, associate professor and hospitalist at Oregon Health & Science University.

Trump’s response to the virus reflects a disregard for scientific expertise, including his downplaying the importance of masks. She thought Biden would win in a landslide, so the close race is a real wake-up call, she said. Even though Biden ultimately wins, she is considering what she could do to communicate more effectively with people in the future.

“Our country does not have the science and mathematics education that many other countries do,” she said.

Others say they feel exhausted after months of battling the coronavirus and were hoping for a clear victory from Biden to cheer them up.

“I can’t help but think as a healthcare worker that the nation has really let us down… even if Biden wins,” added James Kerridge, Chicago-based director of nursing practice. “All this applause does not make up for the feeling of always being cannon fodder for an inept administration. ”

Boston-based pulmonologist Dr George Alba said the election left him in dismay. He had to live apart from his family for weeks to keep them safe, and he worked long hours treating Covid-19 patients.

“We felt like we had the support of the nation until the coronavirus became political and the administration started to erode trust in scientists,” he said. “The feeling of supporting healthcare workers only lasted as long as it was politically appropriate. ”

Other doctors have given a lot of thought to what their patients might be going through and how they can better identify with them.

Ohio-based family physician Dr. Laolu Fayanju treats patients in so-called Rust Belt towns like Youngstown.

Many of his patients told him that they had gone through difficult times during the pandemic and felt alone and isolated. Others are concerned about their job prospects and feel emboldened by Trump’s promises to bring back manufacturing jobs.

He acknowledges that many of those patients gave Trump a victory in Ohio.

“I walk through this old General Motors auto plant on my way to work,” he said. “It looks like a mausoleum, a symbolic representation of what the region is going through. “

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