Still infected, President Donald Trump returned to the White House without a mask on Oct. 5, stating he felt “better than he did 20 years ago.” Is it appropriate to return after just three days of hospitalization? What’s the president’s current condition? Could the president really be feeling so great at the age of 74, overweight and recently infected with COVID-19? Is he adequately quarantined in the White House?
These questions are met with a code of silence. Throughout his press conference, Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, repeatedly used ambiguous wording and excuses to avoid answering questions. When asked about the condition of Trump’s lungs, Conley revealed that he was not allowed to share sure information to the press for Trump’s safety and “his own health and reasons.” Regarding the question of when Trump last tested negative for COVID-19, Conley replied, “I don’t want to go backwards.” Similarly, he declined to answer whether the president had needed supplemental oxygen, saying he didn’t want to give “any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.” While it’s unclear how Conley’s words will change anything, it is clear the president is hiding something. The government’s evasive response regarding the president’s health bears striking resemblance to tactics employed by authoritarian regimes.
The lack of transparency erodes public trust in our government. When pivotal information is lacking, wild imagination fills in the gaps. All kinds of conspiracy theories are clicked away on the internet, speculating that Trump pretended to get infected so that he can avoid the next debate, distract the public from his scandals, earn sympathy votes or claim that the virus is not a big deal when he recovers miraculously. For those who believe in these conspiracy theories, Trump’s administration appears so cynical that it would deceive the public to hold onto power. Even for citizens rational enough not to believe in such conspiracy theories, Trump’s refusal to disclose information alienates and alarms the public. Trump claims he wants Americans citizens to “get through this together,” yet we feel deliberately excluded from our own leader’s recovery process.
The lack of transparency hurts not only Trump but also everyone who has a chance of getting infected with the deadly virus. Information on Trump’s last negative test is crucial because it determines whether supporters who gathered at his Sept. 30 campaign rally in Minnesota are at risk. We deserve to know whether public health guidelines are being met at the White House; if not, the health of approximately 4,000 staff, their associates and families are at risk. Without knowing Trump’s exact condition, more people will mistakenly believe that if they are “invincible” enough, they can conquer the virus as the president claimed he did. This encourages more people to overlook the severity of the virus and only exacerbates its spread.
The president’s infection with COVID-19 is disheartening, but covering up information about it makes the public distrustful. Before this lack of transparency, Trump’s administration was just reckless. Now it is reckless, untrustworthy and irresponsible. While I wish the president a quick recovery, let’s make him pay the price on Nov. 3 by voting him out of office.
Yun Zhu (23C) is from Shanghai.