This story was going to be about Donald Trump’s new persona. He tried being caring and humble for a few minutes in a daily broadcast featuring dead bodies being loaded into the refrigerated trailer of an 18-wheeler at the Elmhurst Medical Center. That’s all it took for the news media to speculate that Trump was taking a new path to America’s heart.
The horror show Trump saw happened in the borough of Queens where Trump calls home. He got misty eyed on TV relating his horror at seeing the corpses being loaded into cold storage after expiring from the novel coronavirus pandemic that is attacking humanity. There is no nobility in sheet-wrapped corpses.
News accounts said Queens had run out of morgue space. Those people died alone, probably unaware that their loved ones were wringing their hands just a few walls away, useless, helpless and feeling equally alone. People on ventilators are heavily sedated. I can assure you it is the most horrid of feelings before blessed oblivion arrives.
Next, Trump revealed that he had undergone a second COVID-19 test. He wanted to see whether the response time for results and the invasiveness of the procedure had improved. My son would love for somebody to shove swabs up his nose if it meant he could be relieved of his fears, but he can’t get a test even though he’s been a lot sicker than Trump. His fever peaked at 100.1 five days ago and stayed at 99.5 for three days. He took on a bit of a green cast and moved into our basement.
The doctor at the hospital where he sought help told him the COVID-19 test was for people who showed worse symptoms and had recently been overseas. The overwhelmed young doctor tasked with triaging the sick and afraid apologized after telling my son that his symptoms were “flu-like,” but that he could offer nothing more. The hospital was limited to 22 tests a day, he said, by the federal government that is doling out the test kits.
Trump runs the federal government, and he says the states need to be more proactive about getting aid for their own citizens. Meanwhile, there are news reports that Trump authorized the sale of more than $60 million worth of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to China in January and February when the epidemic there was running in high gear. The care package came from the national emergency inventory that was relatively unknown and never discussed until it was suddenly needed and not there.
It was truly a humanitarian thing to do except that Trump’s government — and certainly Trump himself — knew a pandemic was coming to America’s shores. A literal bevy of statistics and medical, ethical and intelligence analyses of potential epidemics and pandemics was provided to Trump’s government when he took office, but the Trump administration reacted by ending the pandemic early-warning program and disregarding warnings from President Barack Obama’s administration. Congressional politicians in both houses and both parties started dumping vulnerable stocks before the landfill filled up. Trump, meanwhile, sat on his tiny hands with his large bottom.
On Wednesday, Trump insisted it had been weeks since he’d heard about any test shortages. My son watched incredulously while wearing his mold spore protection mask for the fourth or fifth day in a row, but who’s counting? He is at our house because he feared infecting his wife and four-month-old daughter.
Our doctor is his doctor, and his doctor told all of us not to come to the hospital where my wife was an operating room nurse for 25 years. He said it isn’t safe. Imagine that, an esteemed doctor warning a retired operating room supervisor to avoid the place she holds in the highest regard. Doc was in his office answering the phones because the ancillary staff was sent home and the nurses were coping with the huge uptick of really sick patients.
“Don’t come here unless you are dying,” he told Marsha over the phone. “It is bad. God help us if this doesn’t get turned around.” Doc’s an old man who last year received an award from the local medical association on his 50th anniversary of practicing cardiac and internal medicine. He shouldn’t even be there. He thinks people who disregard the rules of personal space and social distancing are stupid. Doc never minces words.
While all this was going on, one of our $13 billion, reputedly invulnerable nuclear aircraft carriers was suddenly terribly vulnerable to a weapon that unintentionally arrived from China on thin air. About 1,000 sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt — the “Big Stick” — are under quarantine at a U.S. naval base on Guam since last Thursday as the Navy sought to control a coronavirus outbreak aboard the warship. The 1,000 crew members represent about one-fifth of the number of sailors on board.
The saga began publicly when the captain wrote a scathing letter to his superiors in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., urging “decisive action” to control the outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship. At the time of the initial reports, there were about 100 sailors infected.
In his four-page letter, authenticated to Reuters by Pentagon officials on Tuesday, Capt. Brett Crozier reported a growing number of the crew had tested positive. In a word, all “hell” subsequently broke loose. Since the revelation of the letter Tuesday, Cozier was relieved of command and will no doubt be cashiered from the Navy in inimitable grace at the soonest possible opportunity . . . unless Trump intervenes.
It is possible. Trump pardoned Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher after he was acquitted of murdering an ISIS fighter. Two subordinate SEALs testified that they saw the chief stab the teen he was treating. If Trump will pardon a sailor who allegedly murdered an Afghan lad by cutting his throat, there is at least a slight chance the good captain might be restored to service. That said, it is doubtful he will ever attain the cherished rank of admiral.
The letter underscored how pitifully unprepared the military is for keeping America’s service members safe from things that don’t care how much body armor they wear. At this writing, it is unclear whether the Navy was going to return the Big Stick’s 5,000 crew members to its home port in San Diego. Fearful family members are already raising a ruckus inside and outside the Navy over the fate of their family members.
Before the Theodore Roosevelt became a sick ship it was involved in operations to show the flag as part of U.S. operations in the South China Sea near the coveted oil and natural gas-rich Spratly Islands. The Spratly Islands are located west of the Philippines and are subject to rival claims from China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China demanded that we go away and not come back.
What the Chinese hoped to do to America’s Navy with threats and bluster became a reality when coronavirus attacked instead. It is a merciless enemy with no respect for anything.