I believe Donald J. Trump is the most dangerous person in the world. I believe he is also the most callous. What kind of a monster witnesses a pandemic kill over 210,000 people in just over eight months and then, after he himself contracts it from his own brazen carelessness and is given the best medical treatment available, has the gall to claim the rest of us shouldn’t “be afraid” of the disease or “let it dominate our lives”? It’s nothing short of a proverbial pissing on the graves of every American ― including my own father, Mark Urquiza ― who didn’t have the luxury to “Walter Reed and chill” and are now missing from the lives of the people who loved them.
Adding insult to injury, the symptoms Trump is reported to have experienced before his trip to the hospital last weekend ― low-grade fever, fatigue, chills and cough ― are eerily similar to my dad’s own symptoms. But this is all that their stories have in common. Unlike the president, my dad, an essential worker in the manufacturing industry, was not admitted to the hospital out of an “abundance of caution” when he fell ill. Instead, my dad, like tens of thousands of others, was told, “go home and come back if you reach a point when you cannot breathe.” Each person who is sent home loses precious time to get ahead of the virus, rest their lungs and receive life-saving treatment. Each person who is sent home must wait and worry and hope that they do not die or infect their families.
Trump, on the other hand, was admitted to Walter Reed medical center just a day after testing positive for COVID-19 (that is, if we are to believe the suspicious timeline that the White House has laid out for us), where he received top-notch medical care, including experimental remedies not yet available to the public, as well as 24/7 monitoring from a large team of doctors and nurses. Unsatisfied with merely relishing the fortune of receiving those gifts and concentrating on healing so that he can continue (or perhaps finally start) to lead our country, he decided to leave the hospital for a joyride on Sunday night where he waved his at supporters from his hermetically sealed SUV, while potentially exposing the Secret Service detail with him to the virus. But Trump can do these sorts of things because he’s the president, and so, unlike the rest of us, not only does he get the best of everything, he gets to take the best of everything and then rub our faces in it and tell us that we shouldn’t be afraid of the very thing that is not only attacking and killing us and our families and friends, but has also turned our country upside down and destroyed so many lives — economically and socially too.
Regular people, like my dad, who was a lifelong Republican and believed Trump and other GOP leaders who told him not to worry about COVID-19, didn’t have access to the same medical care that Trump (or the countless others in his administration who have now fallen sick) do. Now he’s dead. And he’s not alone.
Trump can do these sorts of things because he’s the president, and so, unlike the rest of us, not only does he get the best of everything, he gets to take the best of everything and then rub our faces in it and tell us that we shouldn’t be afraid of the very thing that is not only attacking and killing us and our families and friends but has also turned our country upside down.
Take, for example, Fiana Tulip’s mom, Isabelle Papadimitriou, who died on July 4, after battling COVID-19 for just one week. Isabelle was a health care worker and had spent nearly 30 years helping others breathe as a respiratory therapist. When she contracted COVID-19 from a patient she was working with, she didn’t have the luxury of a hospital because Texas’ system was overwhelmed.
The level of care Trump is receiving was not available to Marcos Reyes’ dad, Juan Reyes, either, and he died on Sept. 4, after battling COVID-19 for several weeks. Juan was a Cuban refugee who endured torture in Cuba and escaped to the United States in the 1980s, where he became a citizen and proud member of the Republican Party. Juan, an independent and healthy 84-year-old, started feeling COVID-19 symptoms in August. He went into his Miami clinic for a test and was informed that he would receive his test results in 14 days. A week later, before the results had even returned, Juan was admitted to the hospital because he couldn’t breathe. Shortly thereafter, he was intubated and died.
Isabelle, Juan, and my dad are among the 210,000 people and counting who have died from this virus. How many of them would be alive right now if they would have received even a fraction of the care the president or his cronies are receiving?
What’s more, how many of those 210,000 would have never been infected in the first place if over the last nine months they had received smart, cautious, science-based information from their leaders instead of the sloppy, conflicting reports we’ve all had to try and pick apart in hopes of staying safe ― and alive? How many of those 210,000 would still be with us if this pandemic had not been turned into political fodder for these men and women who we have entrusted with protecting our lives and the lives of our families and friends? How many of those 210,000 would not have died if Trump and those who prop him up hadn’t done whatever they could to pretend that this deadly disease wasn’t a big deal so that they could keep the stock market soaring and could con us into reelecting him and his regime in November?
But now it is clearer than ever before: If we reelect him, we are doomed.
Don’t take my word for it. Scientists at Cornell University last week published a scathing body of research that concluded the single largest spreader of misinformation on COVID was none other than Donald Trump. This man has done whatever he can to downplay the devastation this pandemic can and will continue to cause and he does not seem to care how many of us die as long as he is president for another four years. He will continue to do whatever he can to make us believe that we are safe and shouldn’t worry ― that COVID-19 is “nothing to be afraid of” and shouldn’t “dominate” our lives ― even as he did the exact opposite of what he preached and admitted himself into the hospital for what was supposedly a very mild case of the disease.
At this point, there is nothing I will be shocked by. In fact, I’m honestly waiting for the president to insist that my dad and anyone else who died from COVID-19 is “loser” or a “sucker,” in the same way he reportedly spoke about soldiers who went off to fight to protect our country. I mean, that’s really what he’s essentially already said, right? COVID-19 is nothing to be afraid of and so, if you are, you’re a chump and if you can’t beat it like he has, then you’re obviously not as tough as he is.
It’s sick, and after everything we’ve been through ― so much of it at the hands of this madman and this administration ― we deserve so much better. How can someone go through this and come out on the other end with even less compassion than they had before? What is wrong with him and how many more people will die because he refuses to put humanity before party? Because he refuses to put humanity before himself?
And it’s not over! We know that the president is still infectious at this point and should be quarantined for up to 14 more days to protect others from being infected ― just like I’m currently forced to do after being potentially being exposed to COVID-19 last week when I was in the same room as the president and first lady at the presidential debate. But, instead of putting others’ lives ahead of his own and staying put like he’s supposed to do, he took the aforementioned joyride and then, upon returning home from the hospital, took off his mask before entering the White House, thereby endangering anyone who came into contact with him there. I am frightened for the maids, cooks, janitors and maintenance people, most of whom I suspect are Black and people of color, who have no other option than to go to work in this unsafe environment. As I shared in my statement last Friday, this is beyond irresponsible. It is criminal. He knows he is putting lives in danger and he just doesn’t care.
The Republicans don’t seem to care either. So, since no one else is going to clean up this mess as it continues to spread and defile our country, it’s up to all of us. I have already lost my dad to this disease ― and to the negligence and cruelty of the people who are supposed to care for and protect us ― and I refuse to lose more people that I love. I refuse to lose more of this country that I love. I refuse to lose more years of my life while our leaders play political games instead of following common sense and science.
This disease has dominated my life. And I am scared. But I’m going to take my fear and try and turn it into something even more powerful: hope. And I hope you’ll join me.
Kristin Urquiza is an activist and advocate. After her dad died from COVID-19 she co-founded Marked by COVID. She also works to protect tropical rainforests as deputy director at Mighty Earth. She is a graduate of Yale University and University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy where she earned a Master of Public Affairs.