Three weeks ago (a lifetime now, it seems) President Donald Trump rejected testimony provided to Congress by Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the effectiveness of wearing masks.
The president disputed Redfield’s insistence that personal masks offer a greater degree of protection against the coronavirus than any potential vaccine — a vaccine that most public health officials agree likely will not arrive at least before the end of the year.
“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine because the immunogenicity [of a vaccine] may be 70%. And if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Redfield told lawmakers.
(For his part, Redfield put any prospect of the production and distribution of a viable COVID-19 vaccine all the way off until the middle of next year, not the sort of miracle cure the president wants in time to help his reelection.)
Despite calls from health officials in his own administration to wear simple cloth face coverings that are shown to help prevent the spread of COVID 19 to others, Trump has publicly sent mixed messages about their importance from the start and regards them as a sign of weakness.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that Trump chastises staff who opt to wear masks while working in the West Wing. The report goes on to say that former aides see the outbreak of new infections among staff and associates of the president as the result of “the recklessness and top-down culture of fear that Mr. Trump created at the White House and throughout his administration.”
More recently, during the vile shout fest that was billed as a presidential debate, Trump petulantly mocked former vice president Joe Biden for his reliance on wearing masks while out on the campaign trail.
When Trump ultimately tested positive for the virus that he has repeatedly denied as anything more than a problem that will disappear on its own, he postured, and details of his condition — the well-being of the sitting American president — varied as the White House sought to portray him as healthy and strong, even when reporters pressed for more information about his aggressive treatments.
But on Monday, after an ailing Trump returned to the White House from a three-night hospital stay, he was still definitely dismissive of the disease that has infected many people in his own orbit, and one that has now killed more than 210,000 Americans.
He ascended a staircase, removed his own mask, posed for photos and stepped back inside the White House past workers who had gathered there — a walking, talking, breathing example of reckless contagion.
To watch these scenes unfold in the context of the nation’s still-rising numbers of coronavirus cases — Vashon included — is stomach-turning.
If you’re feeling upset and sickened by these scenes, too, then look away from your screen, and get to your misinformation medicine cabinet: Real newspapers — in your hand and even as modest and imperfect as this one — take so much time and care to produce, but they help inoculate our communities against false facts and narratives. For an example of that in action, look no further than the front page of this week’s Beachcomber about an employee of Langland Dental Associates, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
That staff member learned about their exposure and immediately took steps to protect themselves and those around them, informing the practice, pursuing a test and entering quarantine.
Then, to ensure that no risk would be posed to anyone, staff closed the practice for a week so the building can be sanitized and all employees tested for COVID-19, whether they had exposure to the virus or not. All of this information was shared in detail by Langland Dental Associates online Sunday for the good of the community to know and be informed of the situation.
As a community, now more than ever, we all rely on accurate and timely information to keep us safe and to see us through the worst of this never-ending onslaught of disease — to that end, please support your island sources of news and good journalism at large. Did you know that your King County Library System card can get you access to the latest editions of The New York Times and Seattle Times? For more on that, visit tinyurl.com/yxnuvndg.
If this entire country practiced the island’s ready-on-the-dot alertness for emergencies, valued the perspectives and backgrounds of experts — we’re lucky to have so many on-call here — and demonstrated the same routine willingness to work together to for the greater good, it’s not hard to imagine a very different and much less sickening — in every sense of the word — national outcome of the pandemic.
We could all get better soon. Keep wearing your mask. Keep social distancing. And by all means, vote.