With less than a month to go until the presidential election, one would think the upcoming vote would be the biggest headline. Nah! Nothing is normal in 2020; a health topic has been all the buzz. Sure COVID-19’s old news, but there’s a twist now. The high and mighty in our nation’s capital, the Commander in Chief, his staff members/aides, FLOTUS, members of Congress, and the top military brass, have fallen victim to coronavirus. Washington isn’t well.
The D.C. coronavirus crisis started off with a bang when President Trump announced his positive diagnosis via Twitter at 12:54 a.m. last Friday. Call me old school, but I’d have thought such a momentous piece of news would rate a press conference in broad daylight. But, nevertheless, the word got out and spread like–take your pick here in 2020–California wildfires or, fittingly, the coronavirus itself.
By Friday night, President Trump had developed a fever and his blood oxygen level had “dropped rapidly,” requiring him to be given supplemental oxygen at the White House. No ambulance was called for Trump’s transportation to the hospital though. This COVID sufferer is the Commander in Chief, so a helicopter, Marine One, was summoned to fly him to his medical care destination. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Trump’s Covid Copter.
The medical destination for the mask-clad president was Walter Reed, a tri-service (Air Force, Army, and Navy) military medical center in Bethesda, Maryland. While the facility’s official name is Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (“WRNMMC”), it is more commonly known simply as “Walter Reed” after the yellow fever researcher. This facility routinely treats presidents and vice presidents in a secured and autonomous ward. A presidential office is available offering a sitting room, kitchen, conference room, hospital bedroom, and an office for the White House Chief of Staff (assuming that individual isn’t down for the count with COVID and unable to work).
Speculation was rampant as to the president’s condition after his admission to Walter Reed. He is, after all, at higher risk due to his age (74) and weight (just over the threshold for obesity for his height). If the Physician to the President (Navy Commander Sean Conley, D.O.) and the White House’s world-class medical resources weren’t enough to handle the situation, there was cause for concern. Would the president be able to carry out his executive duties or would the 25th Amendment be utilized to designate VP Mike Pence to take over for his boss?
Dr. Conley gave press briefings, but they didn’t provide as much detail as enquiring minds wanted. The press pressed for for further information but were rebuffed. The president must be hiding something, right? Not according to Conley who explained that doctor-patient confidentiality had not been waived. Donald Trump may be the president and live in a fishbowl, but he is a patient like anyone else and entitled to some privacy. Sorry, Charlie! No one’s getting ahold of the president’s lung scans.
Medical updates did reveal Dr. Conley’s patient had been drinking while at Walter Reed–an experimental Regeron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail that is. President Trump downed one 8 gram dose of this so-called cocktail which supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus and rid the body of it. The Commander in Chief also started a five day course of the expensive (think about $520 or so per vial) antiviral remdesivir used with moderately to severely ill patients and shown to speed recovery. This drug curbs the virus’ ability to multiply.
Additionally, the president underwent steroid therapy. Unlike athletes, he wasn’t trying to bulk up; Dexamethasone was given to tamp down on possible dangerous inflammation. This cheap and widely available steroid drug has been around for decades, but it is usually reserved for patients deemed severe or critical cases. In this case it was used because it was critical to get the president better and back to the White House to run the country.
The COVID hospital drama ended Monday evening when the president was released and flew home aboard Marine One. But of course the drama continued thereafter because opinions were offered by many that President Trump had been sent home too early. Home for him, of course, is the White House, which offers “world-class” medical resources and a personal physician unlike the home of your average COVID patient.
Why should the president have all the COVID fun though? The high and mighty in Washington began following suit and testing positive. Forget the D.C. “A” list. There’s now a lengthy “C” list in the nation’s capital, and that “C” stands for COVID. Joining President Trump as COVID patients, among others, are his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the Republican National Committee Chief Ronna McDaniel, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett politely declined since she’s already participated over the summer.
It’s not just politicians who are on the “C” list either. The military brass didn’t want to be left out. Taken captive by this unseen enemy were the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Millay, the Army Chief of Staff James McConville, the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, the chief of the National Guard Gen. Daniel Hokanson, and the naval operations chief Adm. Michael Gilday. Sounds like a lot of “stars” are under the gun from this rampant virus.
Notice how the country has come to a screeching halt with all the “C” listers out of action? No? Me either. That’s a good thing since the Russians are surely watching the evening news on our major networks and keenly aware the top honchos are out of the office. But the C-listers are still minding the store even while sick–just remotely. Washington’s not well, but are country is still up and running.
How much medical information about a sitting president are Americans entitled to have? Where do you draw the line between patient confidentiality and the public’s right to know? Was it inevitable influential individuals running our country would at some point come down with COVID?