- President Trump and his wife tested positive for coronavirus though it was unclear where they contracted the disease
- Trump has been prescribed an experimental antibody cocktail to try to speed his recovery
- Observers say the diagnosis may make his supporters take the disease more seriously but a quick recovery could undermine efforts to contain the spread
If there is a silver lining to President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, it may be that his supporters start taking the threat of infection more seriously.
Trump tweeted early Friday both he and first lady Melanie Trump had tested positive for the disease, which has infected more than 7 million other Americans and caused a death toll approaching 210,000. The White House said Trump was prescribed an experimental antibody cocktail to speed his recovery and then choppered to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
From the start of the pandemic little more than six months ago, Trump had downplayed the threat the contagion posed, mocking Democratic rival Joe Biden for following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and openly disagreeing with the administration’s top doctors.
The Trump campaign failed to inform the Biden campaign the president had been exposed to the virus even though the pair had shared the stage for Tuesday night’s debate. So far, Biden has tested negative.
Trump’s sleight of hand likely contributed to the spread of the virus, which has devasted the economy and shows little sign of abating, with about 2,000 cases being added daily and flu season closing in.
It was unclear where Trump had been exposed. A number of people who attended Trump’s announcement of Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who had COVID earlier this year, as his choice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed Friday they also had tested positive. Notre Dame President the Rev. John Jenkins, who has apologized for not wearing a mask when he attended the announcement and tested positive, was tested for the disease after a colleague tested positive.
“Perhaps some of his followers who believed COVID was a hoax and that only the old and frail are susceptible will take it seriously,” public relations specialist John Goodman told International Business Times in an email.
Mitchell McKinney, director of the Political Communications Institute at University of Missouri agreed.
“With the president, the first lady, immediate staff and now a number of other people surrounding Donald Trump testing positive for the COVID virus, perhaps this will cause Trump supporters, some who have actually questioned if the virus is a ‘hoax’ and many who continue to refuse to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, to now be more willing to head the advice of medical experts to wear masks and engage in social distancing,” McKinney said in an email.
“Perhaps, too, Donald Trump himself may now be more willing to model these behaviors in order to prevent the spread of the virus for the sake of his staff, his supporters and for all citizens.”
Should Trump recover quickly, however, Robert Johnson, professor of finance at Heider College of Business at Creighton University, told IBT he fears “Trump will likely claim that many have been sensationalizing the virus and that he was right all along to underplay [it].”
Pam Keith, the Democratic candidate in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, called Trump’s diagnosis “a wake-up call to the president and his party.”
“The coronavirus presents a clear and present danger to our country and we cannot keep treating it like it will magically go away. This pandemic requires aggressive action.,” she said in a statement emailed to IBT.