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‘You’re Gonna Beat It.’ How Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Battle Has Only Fueled Misinformation

President Trump Recuperates Amid Questions About His Health And Campaign
President Trump Recuperates Amid Questions About His Health And Campaign

U.S. President Donald Trump salutes Marine One helicopter pilots on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2020. Credit – Ken Cedeno—Polaris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after requiring supplemental oxygen and being hospitalized for COVID-19, President Donald Trump was already talking about the virus in the past tense.

“I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school,” Trump said in a video filmed from his hospital suite on Saturday. “And I get it, and I understand it, and it’s a very interesting thing.”

It had been a rare and ominous sight to watch the President of the United States get airlifted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be treated for a disease that has killed more than 210,000 Americans and sickened millions more. Laid low by the very virus that he has consistently downplayed, and with more than a dozen White House and Republican officials around him also infected, Trump struck a rare note of uncertainty, tweeting “Going well, I think!” Messages of shock and sympathy came in from around the world.

But if public health officials, and even some of Trump’s own aides, had hoped the experience would chasten him to change his message after months of questioning the severity of the disease, it quickly became clear that they were mistaken. “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” the President, who has received the very best medical care in the U.S., repeatedly told Americans a mere 72 hours later.

By the time he was staging his triumphant return from the hospital on Monday evening — still infected and heavily medicated — the sentiment that the president’s experience proved the virus had been exaggerated had exploded in the conservative media ecosystem. Slickly produced White House videos depicted Trump as a returning war hero, in an aggressive campaign to paper over any seeming vulnerabilities in a president who has always valued the appearance of strength above all else. The implication was that Trump was over the disease, which he isn’t, and that the nation needed to be as well, which it is not.

Trump’s message — not only urging Americans not to be afraid of the deadly illness, but promising they are “gonna beat it” if they get infected — was met with disbelief by many doctors and health experts who have spent the past nine months watching patients fight for their lives and die alone. “What the president is saying is untrue and irresponsible,” said Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta, tells TIME. “He’s giving the impression: ’I’m strong, I made it, you’re the weak ones that didn’t make it.’ I think it shows a lack of compassion.”

On Tuesday morning, Trump continued to minimize the severity of the virus. “Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu.

He’s fought COVID-19 for months. Can he ever really beat it?

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Larry Brown had been on a ventilator for 37 days. Nurses periodically turned the 45-year-old former Indiana State football player onto his stomach to help him breathe. Brown’s lungs were filling with fluid, and doctors didn’t expect him to last.

As visitors weren’t allowed in the intensive care unit, a nurse placed a phone next to his ear.

“Thank you for fighting so hard, Larry,” his sister-in-law, Ellie Brown, told him. She was careful not to say goodbye. That might scare him.

Like millions of COVID-19 cases, Brown’s had started with minor symptoms. When he fell ill in mid-March, people in the U.S. were becoming familiar with the novel coronavirus. Businesses were starting to shutter — but only until the country could flatten the curve, nearly everyone thought. And most cases weren’t severe, officials said.

Yet Brown spiraled quickly. His family feared they’d lose him but wouldn’t call it quits. “People weren’t ready to go there,” Ellie Brown said.

Turns out, neither was Larry.

After that phone call, Brown slowly improved. He’d remain on the ventilator for nearly two more weeks, for a total of about 50 days. But coming out of the medically induced coma was only the beginning of Brown’s recovery.

There’s no end in sight to a rehabilitation that already has lasted months. His hands — which helped make him Indiana State’s eighth all-time receiving leader — can’t even open a Pepsi can. He didn’t die of the virus, but life may never be the same.


Brown doesn’t know exactly when he first felt symptoms. Around March 15, he started struggling to focus at work. He didn’t have a cough like many coronavirus patients, but he did lose his appetite. The 5-foot-9-inch, 240-pound man knew that was a sign.

He was hearing more about the virus. Schools and sports leagues began shutting down. Indiana would soon order residents to stay home unless they had to go to work, the doctor or an essential business.

Brown called his doctor, who told him to quarantine. He hunkered down, and his mom dropped off meals.

Brown’s symptoms worsened. Nightmares arrived. He struggled to draw deep breaths.

On March 25, an exhausted Brown called his mom for help. Marilyn Brown dialed 911, and an ambulance took her son to the hospital.

Brown’s spirits rose over the prospect of help. As he rested in his room watching TV, he thought he’d stay a few days.

Soon, though, he was moved to another room — he wasn’t sure why.

It’s the last thing he really remembers.


Doctors moved Brown to the ICU and started him on the ventilator while grappling with how to treat him. They put him in a medically induced coma, and attached him to an ECMO machine, which did the job of his lungs by transferring oxygen into his blood.

As April ended, Brown’s condition grew worse. A dangerous MRSA infection set in. Despite the no-visitors rule, staff feared Brown had little time and let

The Latest: Trump says he is ‘going to beat’ coronavirus

WASHINGTON — The Latest on coronavirus infections hitting President Donald Trump and others in his circle (all times EDT):

6 p.m.

President Donald Trump has told his longtime friend and sometimes lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he’s “going to beat” the coronavirus.

The New York Post says Trump called Giuliani on Saturday to assure him he’s doing fine following a sobering assessment from the White House chief of staff.

Trump reportedly told Giuliani on the call: “I feel I could get out of here right now. But they’re telling me there can always be a backstep with this disease. But I feel I could go out and do a rally.”

Trump also reportedly explained that he continued to engage in high-risk activity despite the pandemic because he’s the “president of the United States. I can’t lock myself in a room. … I had to confront (the virus) so the American people stopped being afraid of it so we could deal with it responsibly.”

He also said he hopes that by beating the virus he “will be able to show people we can deal with this disease responsibly, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it.”

Trump is being treated around the clock by a team of doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.


5:45 p.m.

Joe Biden says he urged some governors who wanted to endorse his presidential campaign to refrain from doing so because the Trump administration might retaliate by withholding medical supplies critical to COVID-19 relief.

Addressing a virtual town hall of the Amalgamated Transit Union town hall from Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday, Biden said, “I probably shouldn’t say this.”

“I told some governors, don’t endorse me who wanted to endorse me. Don’t endorse me because you’ll pay a penalty,” Biden said. “You won’t get what you need from the federal government in terms of COVID prep.”

He added: “Not a joke, my word.”

Biden’s campaign has drawn the support of some leading Republicans who have broken ranks against their own party and President Donald Trump.

Asked what he would do differently in handling the coronavirus pandemic than Trump, Biden responded, “I don’t want to be attacking the president and the first lady now because they now have contracted the coronavirus.”

“Jill and I pray for their quick and full recovery,” he added, referring to his wife, Jill.


5:30 p.m.

With President Donald Trump in the hospital, his campaign is launching an effort it’s calling “Operation MAGA” to maintain momentum.

The operation entails “a full marshalling of top-level surrogates, campaign coalitions and Trump supporters” to carry the campaign until Trump can return to the trail, according to a campaign statement. Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s family will be prime players in the effort, which will feature a series of online events leading up to Wednesday’s vice presidential debate before moving to in-person events.

It’s unclear how the new plan differs from the campaign’s operations before Trump was hospitalized. Pence and the first family was already actively