Less than a week after testing positive for COVID-19, Trump is back to work. He’s feeling really good. He beat the virus!
Trump wants the world to know that COVID-19 isn’t as serious, scary, or fatal as scientists, doctors, and the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans have proved it to be. That’s obvious.
But his rushed return conveys a second message, this one about illness in general: get over it fast, and get back to work.
Don’t mind how winded he appeared after climbing the White House steps yesterday evening after three days at Maryland’s Walter Reed Medical Center. Instead, focus on the dramatically edited clip of his triumphant return from hospitalization, tweeted shortly after: soundtracked by epic instrumentals, he defiantly removes his mask, looks strong and unshakeable, then salutes military personnel.
There comes a time when a person is too sick to work. Sometimes a person needs months to recover. There are people who spend the majority of their lives with an illness that renders them unable to work.
Going back to work too soon is a way sick people can lose progress made during recuperation and may get sicker as a result. In cases of contagious illnesses – whether it’s the flu or a stomach virus or COVID-19 – fast-tracking recovery is a route to infecting others.
Trump emphasizes what our capitalist society has for so long encouraged: a person’s productivity matters more than their health. People too sick to work, then, are considered failures.
An ableist culture that glorifies "beating" and "getting over" sickness has ushered in the grotesque carnival we are going to be subjected to in the coming days.
— Dr. Steven W. Thrasher (@thrasherxy) October 5, 2020
In another clip tweeted post-return, Trump says of COVID-19: “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.” How does that reconcile with the over one million people who’ve died worldwide as a result of Covid-19?
In Trump’s world, does dying of an illness, be it cancer or COVID-19 or heart failure, mean failure? What about a slower recovery than his own? In either case, the sick person must have done something wrong.
Not everyone has access to the same quality of care as the president of the United States, obviously. Barriers to healthcare are rampant in the U.S., especially for minority populations like Black and Latinx folks who are disproportionately affected by high costs as well as discrimination. The LGBTQ community faces these discrepancies, too.
Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people people are contracting the virus at higher rates than white people. They also require hospitalization and/or die from the illness more often.
LGBTQ adults are more likely to be living with certain preexisting conditions that could complicate recovery from a respiratory illness like Covid-19. That there are higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation within the community is another unfortunate reality.
And so much about COVID-19 is unexplainable: very healthy people have died from the illness just as statistically high-risk people have survived it.
It’s the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., but our country’s supposed leader makes light of it, as he has throughout the pandemic, even after contracting it.
“Worried about COVID-19? Forget about it. Get out there,” he tells the public.
Recovering from COVID-19 is a snap, after all. So heading promptly back to work despite illness is a given. In Trump’s world, those who don’t comply — even if they can’t — are less than.