Frank DeFilippo: Marylanders, Be Very Afraid of COVID — And Our Proximity to the White House

Marine One, the presidential helicopter, transports President Trump to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 2. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Marylanders have every reason to be afraid of the coronavirus. They’re within spitting distance of the polluted Trump White House.

Maryland stands at one corner of the congested triangle known now as the DMV – District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia – one of the most heavily trafficked and vulnerable population centers in the country. The area is packed tighter than tuna in tin.

The state is located right next door to the infectious germ pool that President Trump has created by contagion and contempt. In fact, if Trump doesn’t know – and it’s safe to assume he doesn’t – Maryland donated the very land of his temporary address.

So if Trump, or one of his dozens of diseased toadies, sneezes into a fast tailwind, half the population of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties could be exposed to droplets of snot or spittle seasoned with the presidential coronavirus bug. The other half of that citizenry listens to Dr. Anthony Fauci instead of Trump. They’re masked.

Frank
Frank A. DeFilippo

Trump’s doctors are tight-lipped with details about his condition and any measures taken of it, probably the more so since it has been reported that physicians who treated him earlier were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. Talk about presidential transparency. Trump has been cleared by his doctors to resume public activity – with the public’s breath on hold and its fingers crossed, not for him but for their own good health.

Montgomery and Prince George’s are especially vulnerable as they are joined at the hip with the District. Both have large minority populations, and both dispatch thousands of workers across the areas’ borders every day, though not full force since the pandemic alarm.

Baltimore is another contaminant area because of the density of its living spaces, even though its population is shrinking. During normal times, more than 100,000 commuters leave the Baltimore region every day for work in the District and its environs. But, hey, what does Trump care? He has described Baltimore as “very dangerous and filthy,” and “a disgusting, rat and rodent infected mess.”

To quote Trump directly on the coronavirus, in one of his Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry” moments: “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. Don’t let it take over your lives. . . .I’m better and maybe I’m immune. I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives.”

And here’s another doozie of a presidential quote: “I think it was a blessing from God that I caught it, this was a blessing in disguise.”

Miracles happen at Fatima and Lourdes, and not at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. There, science and doctors prevail, though Trump repeatedly rejects the human contribution to the treatment in favor of assigning to the Almighty the political benefit of the mention. Fortunately, God must have a sense of humor even if Trump doesn’t.

For Trump, the pandemic is all about image. Appear tough, strong, and in control. Avoid at all costs any suggestion of weakness, such as temporarily yielding presidential duties to the vice president (thankfully, he didn’t). What must have really rankled Trump, though, were the descriptions of him as obese, a visible condition accentuated by the bulge in the bottom third of his ubiquitous, overly-long red tie.

Tough must also assume the balcony prop of the authoritarian salute, a favorite posture of dictators from Benito Mussolini to Kim Jung Un. Missing were the strutting troops and rumbling tanks.

But don’t be afraid? Sure, be happy, be careless, look forward to being hooked up to a ventilator and let the machine breathe for you as long as someone doesn’t pull the plug and you lie there with the vital signs of a head of cabbage.

Socialize unmasked, ease up close enough to elbow-grab friends and guests, don’t wash or sanitize the hands after a day of mingling, and breathe heavily the germ-y air of a hundred or so people from states where macho is primo and defiance of health laws is a sign of fearless dominance over the germ instead of the reverse. Does reckless endangerment sound plausible?

But here’s Trump again, waxing enthusiastic about the experimental drug, Regeneron: “I want you to get what I got, and it’s going to be free.” Regeneron is not available to the public.

Trump falsely claimed that the drug cocktail he was given is a “cure.” He later said the drug had “healed” him. There currently is no cure for the coronavirus although a number of vaccines are undergoing trials.

A majority of the population agrees with Kamala Harris who said during the vice presidential debate with Mike Pence that she would submit to a vaccination that scientists recommend but would reject any shot in the arm that Trump proposes. Smart move.

Not everyone lives in a taxpayer-funded, 55,000 square-foot house – 70 feet high, 170 feet wide, 85 feet deep, six floors – that includes a fully-equipped hospital built to scale that is staffed around the clock and can summon the nation’s top specialists to fly to the bedside of a president who is stricken with a deadly bug that he pretends is of lesser lethality than your average seasonal sniffle.

Short of the personal attention a president gets, Maryland – and Baltimore in particular – offers what is arguably among the best health care in the nation, if not the world, with its top-tier medical institutions.

Maryland has been in the forefront of coronavirus management despite the Trump administration’s casual treatment of the threat from its initial arrival, and its continuing lack of a unified national policy to deal with the lethal bug. Trump has chosen to ignore the threat for months. The polls reflect the public’s disgust and distrust as Trump’s reelection chances continue to fade. Trump rants and raves about anything that he hopes will deflect attention from his mishandling of the coronavirus menace.

Maryland is among the few states that has not yet experienced an autumnal surge, or a second wave, of the virus. At least two-thirds of the states are clocking a sudden spike, which epidemiologists attribute to carefree socialization over the Labor Day weekend after the customary incubation period.

Halloween, the newest Hallmark holiday, likely will bring another flutter of viral hysteria, with the blame squarely our own – the revelers who feel the social need to congregate and transmit the risk of contamination to others.

The antidote to the virus is simple and non-challenging, as every sentient person knows – wear a mask, socially distance, avoid large crowds, and wash hands frequently. Duh!

As of this writing, Maryland has logged 130,652 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 3,990 deaths and 7,764 recovery cases, unfortunate though they are, but a modest fraction of the 7.75 million cases nationwide and the 216,879 deaths that could possibly have been avoided with some early bud-nipping.

The gaping primates among us who subscribe to Trump’s intrepid bloviations include the Proud Boys who were told to “stand back and stand by,” a signal that many believe may lead to election season violence. Trump earlier issued another command, “lock and load” to a similar group of meatheads.

Both groups, among many others, signify the constituency that believes, like Trump, that their manhood is compromised and their constitutional rights are diminished if they mask up, stand apart and occasionally wash. To them and their ilk, including Trump, wearing protective measures is girlie stuff.

PUH-lease, will the great unwashed stay away from Maryland?

 

Frank A. DeFilippo
Frank A. DeFilippo is an award-winning political commentator who lives and writes in Baltimore. DeFilippo has been writing about the comic opera of politics for more than 50 years. He reported on the Maryland General Assembly for 10 years before joining the administration of former Gov. Marvin Mandel (D) as press secretary and speechwriter. Between times, he was a White House correspondent during the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he has covered six national political conventions. DeFilippo is the author of Hooked, an alleged work of fiction, and an unpublished manuscript, Shiksa: The Rise and Fall of Marvin Mandel.