I woke up panicked early Saturday morning: I couldn't smell. I immediately sprung out of bed, terrified I had contracted Covid-19 from President Donald Trump and his supporters after sitting only 15 feet away from them at the debate in Cleveland last week, where I was a guest of former Vice President Joe Biden.
The tweet showed that he cares nothing about the suffering of families like mine and those who are going to continue to be scarred by the disease.
It turned out to only be a dream, but the adrenaline it sent coursing through my body was real, and I lay in bed with my mind racing as I went over the events of the last few days and months: losing my dad, Mark Urquiza, too soon to Covid-19, compounded by the fear that I have been exposed. My mom, in tears for days, scared that she would lose me, her only child, as well.
There is some comfort in knowing I'm not alone. The families of the more than 210,000 people in the United States, and counting, who have lost their lives to the coronavirus are united in grief. Last week we added another name to the list of people affected by this potentially deadly virus, but it provided no sense of solace and solidarity: that of Donald J. Trump.
I sincerely hope that the president and his family never have to experience the trauma and loss that I have experienced. I welcome and anticipate recovery for the president, the sooner the better. But this terrible diagnosis could have been an opportunity for him to right some of the wrongs he previously committed in denying the danger of the virus, not taking steps to keep it from spreading and refraining from offering compassion to families like mine who lost someone because they believed those lies.
Any hope I may have had was shattered Monday afternoon, however, when he announced via a tweet that he would be checking out of the hospital and urged the country: "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life." The tweet showed that he cares nothing about the suffering of families like mine and those who are going to continue to be scarred by the disease — all without acknowledging that he inhabits a health care reality provided to no one else on Earth.
As I said at the Democratic National Convention: The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas, the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in. Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center early in his illness. There he had access to an army of specialists, 24/7 monitoring from top doctors and nurses and experimental drugs denied to almost every other person with the coronavirus.
My dad had similar symptoms (low-grade fever, chills, cough, low energy) once he contracted the virus, yet the clinic he visited told him to go home and to go the hospital only if he couldn't breathe. He was sent home on a Friday, and by the next Tuesday, his health had declined so far that it led to his untimely death.
Would my father be alive right now if he had gotten even a small fraction of the care Trump is getting? If the hospital had the capacity to admit my father out of an "abundance of caution," would my dad still be here? He deserved that opportunity.
As did Juan Carlos "Charlie" Rangel, who had to wait three hours when his daughter Rosemary Rangel Gutierrez called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. When Charlie's condition deteriorated, Rose's young sister drove him to the hospital herself. He died days later. And Rosie Davis' mom, Mary Castro, who lived in a nursing home and had to wait days to go to the hospital after first exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. If Charlie and Mary had had access to care that prioritized an "abundance of caution," would they still be here today, too?
Throughout their illnesses and following their deaths, Trump kept on message: Everything would be fine, as the virus affected virtually nobody — his words, not mine. He may have believed that — though his recently revealed comment to reporter Bob Woodward on Feb. 7 that Covid-19 is "more deadly than even your strenuous flus" suggests he didn't — but everything has been far from fine.
The president of the United States might be entitled to the very best care, but he isn't entitled to dismiss the pain and danger to others who could never hope to get the level of treatment he gets. Trump will not and is not experiencing what the majority of coronavirus victims in this country have experienced, making his call not to be "afraid" of the disease not only callous but also fully divorced from the lives of the rest of us.
The world is watching, and it's time that Trump, as the single largest spreader of misinformation himself, put his political agenda aside, stop spreading lies about the virus and focus his administration's energy on providing much-needed emergency relief for the millions of Americans hardest hit by the pandemic.
Sadly, one thing we know is that we simply can't rely on this president to take even the most basic steps to protect others from the virus, despite his own brush with it. I was in a room with him last week after having been promised that everyone would be virus-free; he couldn't even be trusted on that score.
I was in a room with him last week after being promised everyone would be virus-free; he couldn’t even be trusted on that score.
Trump won't address the crisis or provide restitution for the devastation we face. And that's part of why I started the nonprofit organization Marked By COVID to elevate the truth about the coronavirus and save lives. We magnify what Joe Biden and thousands of medical and scientific experts have been calling for all along: a coordinated, data-driven national response to the coronavirus pandemic.
That's why Marked By COVID joined with other organizations across the country to host a national Week of Mourning from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11. We must acknowledge our loss if we are ever to begin to heal from the trauma caused by a pandemic allowed to spin out of control because of failed leadership.