Shortly after arriving at the White House Monday night following his three-day hospitalization for COVID-19, President Donald Trump climbed the steps to the Truman balcony and removed his mask in front of a throng of photographers. The moment was swiftly condemned by many as a “photo opportunity” that put staff in danger.
“He is likely expelling virus into the air,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. “It looks like there are several people around him. I just don’t get it. This breaks every protocol.”
After retreating into the White House, Trump filmed a short video for social media, telling the public, “Don’t let [coronavirus] dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it.” His comments are being criticized for downplaying the threat of COVID-19, which has now killed more than 200,000 Americans.
“We saw what this disease can do, so guess what? We are afraid,” said Amanda Kloots, whose husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero, died after battling the disease for three months. “Have some empathy, why are you bragging? Not everyone is lucky enough to walk out of the hospital after two days.”
The images of Trump on the balcony dominated network news coverage, with some comparing the shots to “propaganda.”
“It was almost like a clownish Eastern European dictator, in terms of the propaganda and what he was trying to display, it was an obvious photo op,” former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told Inside Edition.
Many also noticed that Trump seemed to be out of breath after taking his mask off on the balcony. The president's doctors have said that Trump is not “out of the woods” yet despite claiming they are “cautiously optimistic” about his prognosis.
“He looks fine as you can see the way he looked when he came out of the hospital,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “The issue is that he’s still early enough in the disease that it’s not a secret that if you look at the clinical course of people, sometimes when you are five to eight days in, you can have a reversal. A reversal meaning going in the wrong direction and getting into trouble."
Trump's treatment includes experimental antibodies, the antiviral drug remdesivir and corticosteroid dexamethasone, according to his doctors.