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Trump Violates Federal Health Guidelines in ‘Irresponsible’ SUV Ride During COVID-19 Treatment

Trump Violates Federal Health Guidelines in ‘Irresponsible’ SUV Ride During COVID-19 Treatment
Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Oct. 4, 2020. ALEX EDELMAN / AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump violated federal health guidelines Sunday when he rode in an SUV with two Secret Service agents to greet well-wishers outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is currently being treated after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

The move went against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which advise that patients being treated for COVID-19 in healthcare facilities only be moved or transported from their rooms for "medically essential purposes," The New York Times pointed out. Some health experts said the drive put the life of Trump's Secret Service at unnecessary risk.

"Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," Chief of Disaster Medicine at George Washington University Dr. James Phillips, who is also an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted Sunday. "They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity."

Phillips further pointed out that the vehicle was hermetically sealed against chemical attacks, making it even more dangerous than an average car for the potential transmission of the virus.

"The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures," he wrote. "The irresponsibility is astounding."

But White House spokesman Judd Deere said the drive had been pre-approved by Trump's medical team.

"Appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE," he said in a statement reported by NPR.

Trump wore a black cloth mask for the drive, and the two Secret Service members with him appeared to be wearing N95 masks, according to The New York Times.

The Times called the masks "an especially effective barrier," but added that "they are not an absolute guarantee of stopping transmission, especially in a small enclosed space occupied by a person known to be infected."

Before his infection, Trump was criticized for downplaying the risk posed by the virus that has now killed more than 200,000 Americans and flouting federal safety guidelines such as mask wearing. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday found that 65 percent of respondents agreed that "if President Trump had taken coronavirus more seriously, he probably would not have been infected."

Trump was transferred to the hospital on Friday, and his medical team has sent mixed messages about his condition over the weekend. On Sunday, his doctors said that he had required oxygen at least once and that he had been given the steroid dexamethasone, which is usually only used to treat severe cases, The New York Times reported. However, they also said he was doing well and could be out of the hospital by Monday.

Moments before his drive, Trump posted a video saying he had "learned a lot" about COVID-19.

"I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the, 'let's read the book' school," he said. "I get it, and I understand it, and it's a very interesting thing I'm going to be letting you know about it."

However, Al Jazeera pointed out that his ride outside, which he announced in the same video, made it unclear exactly what he had learned. Instead, his ride outside the hospital seemed to fit more with his past attitude towards the coronavirus.

"Beyond the ethical, clinical, epidemiological and health implications of this drive by, it shows a dire obsession with showing the public he's still in control, creating a false sense of normalcy and trying to normalize a highly transmissible virus," Dr. Syra Madad, senior director of Special Pathogens at NYC Health + Hospitals, tweeted.

Trump admitted to journalist Bob Woodward on tape that he had intentionally downplayed the virus when it first began to spread in February and March in order to prevent panic.

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