President Donald Trump holds up his facemask during the first presidential debate. Julio Cortez/AP Photo
Days after being hospitalized with COVID-19, President Trump told Americans not to be afraid of the virus or let it dominate their lives.
Trump received experimental treatments and top-tier care likely unlike anyone else in the world.
Some survivors of the illness and family members of those who’ve suffered or died found the messages insulting, dangerous, and out of touch with how the virus affects everyday Americans.
Others interpreted the messages more positively, saying they needed words of encouragement.
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Before leaving Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday, President Trump told Americans not to be afraid of COVID-19 or to let the illness “dominate your life.”
Trump was admitted to the hospital Friday, where he received two experimental treatments and a steroid that can have serious health consequences and is typically reserved for the sickest patients.
He may be the only person in the world to receive that exact mix of medications.
While some of Trump’s supporters praised his message, other Americans who’ve experienced the devastating effects of COVID-19 said the tweet was “a slap in the face,” “insulting,” and “disrespectful.”
Some Americans ‘do not have a choice if COVID-19 dominates your life’
Katie Dean, 51, was rushed to the hospital at 3 am one morning in May. She’d been recovering from pneumonia that agitated her asthma, and her oxygen levels had dropped to 80 after a week of coronavirus symptoms.
Dean was the last person in the Orange County region, where she lives, to receive Remdesivir through a clinical trial, her daughter, Kayla, told Insider.
Had Dean arrived at the hospital five minutes later, the spot would have been given to someone else and she likely would have been intubated and dead within days, the head of viral infection told the family.
“As we sit here nearly six months later, COVID-19 continues to ‘dominate’ her life,” Kayla told Insider. “She is walking with a cane, only has the strength to do a few small activities, and is experiencing neurological issues such as trouble with her memory and motor skills.”
The crisis has dominated Kayla and her boyfriend’s life, too, prompting them to move from Boston to Southern California to help. Her father, an essential worker, continued working to provide for the couple’s kids still at home and receive health insurance.
Trump’s message, Kayla told Insider, “is not only deeply insulting, but for some middle-class Americans who do not get VIP treatment, you do not have a choice if COVID-19 dominates your life.”
Amanda Kloots, a fitness trainer and now-widow of Broadway actor Nick Cordero, posted a similar message to her Instagram account. Cordero died in July after a 95-day battle with the coronavirus.
“To all the over 208,000 Americans who lost loved ones to this virus – I stand by you, with you, holding your hand,” she wrote. “Unfortunately it did dominate our lives didn’t it? It dominated Nick’s family’s lives and my family’s lives.”
‘This virus is no joke’
Christine Salmon was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April and has yet to recover. “I still feel its effects in my lungs and with deep fatigue,” she told Insider. “This virus is no joke. My family has lost two extended family members to COVID already.”
While the self-proclaimed eternal optimist prefers to see Trump’s messages as encouragement not to live your life in fear, she said it’s “unfortunate that he doesn’t acknowledge that there are tens of thousands of people who weren’t afraid, but who took precautions and still got sick.”
Now, she said, they have no choice but to have the virus dominate their lives.
If she could amend Trump’s message, she’d say: “Have respect for yourself and others during this pandemic and make decisions that will help the greater good.” Or, more simply, “Please wear a mask.”
‘It’s a callous and dangerous remark’
Liza Billings, a New York City nurse whose brother died from COVID-19, told GMA Trump’s comments were a “slap in the face to all of those who lost a loved one to COVID-19, as well as all of us who put our lives on the line to save others.”
“It’s a callous and dangerous remark that will do nothing to stop this horrifying pandemic, and may even make it worse,” she said.
Dr. Dara Kass, an ER physician, also took issue with the president’s message linking “strength” with defeating COVID-19.
“I am strong. I gave birth to 3 kids and work in the damn ER,” she wrote on Twitter in response to CNN correspondent Jake Tapper. “I had COVID. It kicked my butt and I still feel it.”
‘Trump is not out of the woods yet’
Danielle Theriault, a former teacher and fitness instructor, has been battling coronavirus symptoms for more than six months. Her treatments, or lack thereof, have been far inferior to Trump’s.
“Many of us were turned away and were told that it was anxiety or our oxygen wasn’t low enough to get help,” she told Insider.
“People need to know it that Trump’s case is not reality,” she added. “Common folk like myself, so to speak, do not receive care like this.”
Theriault added that “Trump is not out of the woods yet,” as her worst symptoms came on two months after she first got sick. “We have to wait and see.”
‘It is welcomed as so many of us need words of encouragement and strength’
Not everyone who’s survived a devastating experience with coronavirus took offense at Trump’s comments.
Elana Goldsmith had the virus and her husband, Michael, she said “miraculously survived” the illness after a 22-day coma and a contentious battle with the maker of Remdesivir to receive the treatment, which Michael was ultimately not given.
Like CNN anchor and COVID survivor Chris Cuomo, Goldsmith said, Trump was “trying to give people strength through their experiences with the virus,”something he’s in the position to do. “In fact,” she added, “it is welcomed as so many of us need words of encouragement and strength right now.”
She encouraged people offended by Trump’s messaging to reframe it as a way to look at the positive — something that helped her get through her husband’s terrifying battle.
“I found my strength through people who chose to see the positive, look towards hope and find solutions,” she said. ” I hope that people take the president’s message as a message of hope and resilience.
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