As President Trump marked his return to the White House on Monday after a weekend hospital stay for coronavirus treatment, he had a message for the American people: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
The president’s tweet left many friends and families of coronavirus victims disgusted and angered. How could they not let a virus that snatched their loved one from them dominate their lives?
Amanda Kloots, wife of Broadway star Nick Cordero, who fought the virus for 95 days and died, was among those mourning the death of a loved one who took issue with the president’s comments. Cordero and Kloots have a 1-year-old son together.
“Unfortunately it did dominate our lives didn’t it? It dominated Nick’s family’s lives and my family’s lives. I guess we “let it” - like it was our choice??,” she wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to spend two days in the hospital. I cried next to my husband for 95 days watching what COVID did to the person I love. It IS something to be afraid of.”
Trump’s comments on Twitter came a few hours before he left Water Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. The president had been treated there since Friday, after announcing that he and the first lady had tested positive for coronavirus.
Adding insult to injury
Nearly four miles from the hospital where she works in New Jersey, Dr. Chris T. Pernell’s father died from coronavirus in April, and she wasn’t able to reach him to say a final goodbye because as soon as she parked her car he had passed.
“I didn’t expect this pandemic to steal his life,” she told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “And furthermore, I didn’t expect a president of the United States to ridicule, to mock and to just show just a disregard for the sanctity of the 210,000 plus lives that have been lost.”
Pernell said Trump’s comments, telling people to not let the virus dominate their lives, just added insult to injury.
“How do you say that? My father is gone,” she said. “I will never see my father on this side of earth again.”
And like Pernell, Katie Coelho is learning how to live without someone she loves so dearly. For Coelho, she’s rebuilding her life without her husband, Jonathan, who she and her two young children lost in April to coronavirus.
Jonathan Coelho spent 20 days on a ventilator and 28 days in the hospital. Katie Coelho never got to say goodbye in person. She was left only with an emotional goodbye note she found on his phone after he passed.
“The pain we are feeling is indescribable,” she wrote on Facebook at the time of her husband’s death. “Our everything was stolen from us. My heart is not even broken it’s shattered. My kids and I will live the rest of our lives without Jonathan. And I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”
After reading Trump’s comments, Katie Coelho told Anderson Cooper Monday, “We deserve better, my husband deserved better, 210,000 people deserved better.”
“Nobody is looking at him thinking he (Trump) is strong or brave,” she said. “He’s weak because my husband fought Covid, my husband wanted to come home and he deserved it, and this man is using this as a political propaganda to divide the nation when we’re already so broken.”
“He could have done so much good with coming out and saying Covid is scary and I’m sorry to all of these families but we’re going to get through this as a nation and as a country and he chose not to.”
Kloots may not know the Coelho family personally, but they’re bonded by the same frustration over losing a spouse with Trump’s comments to the country.
“After you see the person you love the most die from this disease you would never say what this tweet says,” she wrote. “There is no empathy to all the lives lost.”
In her post, Kloots said she felt Trump was bragging, calling his actions and comments sad, hurtful and disgraceful.
’I feel like a shell of myself’
And while Trump’s comments have certainly angered those who have lost someone near and dear, they’ve also irked those who have overcome the virus themselves.
For Whitney Gregory, an emergency room nurse in Texas, moving forward with her life two months after overcoming the virus hasn’t been easy.
Debilitating fatigue, body aches, headaches and shortness of breath – she had it all. And she’s still experiencing it all, two months later, despite a negative Covid test.
“The fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches are too much for me to get through the day,” Gregory said. “I would never be able to keep up with the fast pace of the ER. I feel like a shell of myself.”
She’s dubbed herself a “Covid long hauler” because of the impacts the virus has had on her every day life. She said she’s tried 17 different treatments and medication with no relief.
Gregory has been out of work since July, when she tested positive for coronavirus.
As someone who suffers daily, seeing Trump downplay the virus was offensive and extremely irresponsible, Gregory said.
“Try to put yourself in someone’s shoes who lost a loved one during this pandemic,” she said. “We weren’t allowing visitors at the hospital so patients were dying all alone, without being able to talk to their loved ones one last time.”
“Only front line workers saw just how devastating all of this was for patients and family members. I would leave work crying because people should never be left to die alone.”
Dr. Craig Spencer, an epidemiologist who famously survived Ebola in 2014, was particularly offended.
Spencer is the director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, once deemed the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
“‘Don’t let it dominate your life’ you said! 210k Americans have died,” Spencer tweeted Monday. “We held their hands & called their families over grainy video connections so they could see their last breaths. Your lack of empathy is the single greatest threat to the American people. You have failed us.”