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Est. April 5, 2002
Oct 8, 2020 - Issue 836
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Will COVID-19 derail the Biden campaign from what the polls suggest is a likely victory? The eleventh hour coronavirus infections of President Donald John Trump and First Lady Melania have caused pandemonium. But the burning question for many, despite these unexpected medical diagnoses, is whether this is a distraction designed to give Trump an edge to win.

He was flown to the nearby Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Marine One instead of being transported in the presidential limousine for the ten-to-15-minute drive. There has been intense skepticism as to the truth of the COVID-19 medical finding because of the constant deceit and obfuscation by the Trump White House over a variety of issues. Is this a scheme to evoke sympathy?

Cynics are wondering whether Trump staged this calamity only to emerge from death’s door at the last minute like a phoenix rising from the ashes - a strong and virile leader poised to lead the nation out of the COVID-19 pandemic which he has categorized as being less dangerous to citizens’ health than the annual flu outbreak. His quick recovery would make his case.

Many daily tweets and video postings on Instagram by President Trump have demonstrated that he has remained active and in charge as the nation’s leader. For instance, he left the hospital for a brief ride to wave to his supporters who set up camp outside Walter Reed to show their fealty while his medical team was saying he was still not out of the woods.

At the same time, more than a dozen of Trump’s closest aides and top advisors have also tested positive for the coronavirus, including his former White House communications director, Hope Hicks, who recently returned to his side as a top advisor. The first of those who prepped Trump for the first presidential debate to come down with COVID-19, she was not the last.

Since Hicks fell ill from the disease, four others who met in cramped quarters for the debate prep sessions - former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; presidential advisor, Stephen Miller; campaign manager, Bill Stepien; and former counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway (and her teenage daughter) - have also tested positive for the illness in rapid succession.

The White House and other events organized for President Trump have apparently become super spreaders for the sickness with three U.S. Senators, a member of the nation’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, cabinet officials, and their subordinates either infected or under quarantine for personal safety. Some still question whether this is all part of a grand political strategy.

What is most disturbing about this situation is that President Trump has refused to cooperate with his own Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contact trace those who were in the vicinity of these infected individuals. By far, the major events for the COVID-19 spread were the Rose Garden introduction of the most recent U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, and Trump’s fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey Golf Club.

The combined attendance at both events was upwards of 1,000 people. Based on best estimates, these occasions could result in more than 20,000 contacts, most of whom are unaware that they have been in the company of someone who has been directly or indirectly exposed - a “super-spreading situation.” His earlier Duluth, Minnesota rally added thousands more.

Meanwhile, President Trump is doing little to isolate and/or distance himself from White House essential workers - photographers, butlers, housekeepers, maids, U.S. Secret Service agents, etc. dedicated to serving the First Family and putting their lives on the line daily. He is champing at the bit to return to the Oval Office and resume a full, regular schedule.

Trump has also neglected to give firm instruction to White House staff to wear masks and other personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to the virus and supports the mocking and shaming of those who do by their peers.

Although Trump remains highly contagious, he is acting as if he just has a bad cold or mild case of the flu, leading many to continue to question whether he has COVID-19 at all. And his insistence on presenting himself as strong and invincible with photo ops and frequent statements adds to the questions regarding his actual status as others affected by the coronavirus act differently.

As we enter the homestretch of the presidential campaign, what will be the impact of Trump’s COVID-19 contagion? Will he evidence a miraculous recovery and be viewed as superman? Will it drive voters to turn out and vote for him in large numbers? Or will his poll numbers remain in decline at the national level and in the battleground states?

Whatever the case, Democrats must note that Trump is now a caged, coronavirus-ravaged individual, like a rabies infested dog, who, along with his elected supporters, will do anything to win this election. We are already witnessing the limiting of voting outlets in battleground states, e.g., Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, etc. where early minority votes are being disqualified in record numbers.

On-line voter registration, especially in communities of color, is being obstructed in urban areas across the country. And the United States Postal Service has already slowed down mail delivery, which will likely intensify as mail ballots are returned, ensuring that deadlines for their receipt are missed. Trump has also asked the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremist groups to serve as poll watchers on Election Day to foment chaos and incite violence.

Trump is sowing national division that is every bit as toxic as COVID-19. And the distraction of him as an ill President recovering from a deadly disease is an excellent decoy as he goes all out to steal this election. Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC.

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