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Trump's junk medicine puts his own supporters at deadly risk

Trump's junk medicine puts his own supporters at deadly risk
© Greg Nash

Last week Herman CainHerman Cain'Trumpification' of the GOP will persist 'SNL' host Dave Chappelle urges Biden voters to be 'humble' winners 18 Trump rallies have led to 30,000 COVID-19 cases: Stanford University study MORE, the pizza chain executive and 2012 presidential candidate, died from COVID-19 and Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertNIH director: Mask politicalization may have cost 'tens of thousands' of lives in US Democrats should make the 'Bee-Gees' the face of the Republican Party GOP lawmakers call for Pelosi to be fined over new screenings MORE (R-Texas) announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus. Cain and Gohmert had something in common: Both men, loyal Trump supporters, shared the president’s disdain for wearing masks.  

maskless Cain sat with other maskless attendees at Trump’s Tulsa masks-are-optional rally in June. Nine days later he came down with the virus, which tragically proved fatal.  Gohmert frequently didn’t wear a mask in the Capitol. 

You ask, is it really fair to blame President Trump when his supporters fail to wear masks? After all, didn’t he recently tell Americans that they should wear masks to control the coronavirus pandemic? “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact,” he said on July 21.      

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Yes, it is more than fair to blame Trump, who has long derided masks and once mocked presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Fauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE for wearing one.    

Trump’s July 21 statement was one of several events apparently scripted to allow Trump to appear to catch up with the 79 percent of Americans who support a national mask mandate (which Trump refuses to issue) and the 73 percent who think the president should wear one.

But a week later, like a freed hostage who retracts a confession made under duress, Trump retweeted to his tens of millions of followers a video featuring a Houston doctor named Stella Immanuel. She falsely claimed that “you don’t need masks” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that taking hydroxychloroquine will “cure” the virus. (She repeated the word “cure” six times.) 

Dr. Immanuel has no evident expertise in virology, but does specialize in promoting medical theories that usually are confined to the lurid headlines in the tabloids at supermarket checkout counters. She has claimed that people contract gynecological problems from having sex with demons in their dreams and that researchers are developing a vaccine to prevent people from being religious.  

Trump then doubled down on junk medicine. He criticized social media platforms for removing the misleading video and said that he was “very impressed” with Dr. Immanuel. Rep. Gohmert even one-upped Dr. Immanuel when he blamed his infection on having worn a mask more often in the past week or two. He also announced that he was starting a regimen of hydroxychloroquine.  

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There is no scientific method to this madness. COVID-19 has no known “cure,” and five randomized controlled studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine, which can have serious side effects, is not effective in treating or preventing the disease. Masks don’t cause COVID-19 any more than vaccines prevent religious beliefs or that the moon is made of green cheese.   

To the contrary, a meta-analysis of 172 observational studies of interventions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, SARS and MERS found that mask wearing significantly reduced the risk of viral transmission from an infected person to people close by. That’s why America’s public health leaders are practically on their knees begging the public to wear masks. 

Trump characteristically wanted it both ways by publicly endorsing masks and then retweeting to his followers the opposite message. But he puts his most loyal supporters, the ones who trust his message that there is no need to wear masks, at risk (and his own reelection, but that’s his problem). 

study by researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi suggested that the pandemic will take the lives of more elderly Republicans than elderly Democrats .“The virus is killing more older voters,” said Andrew Johnson, a professor of management at the university and the lead author, “and in many states that is the key to a GOP victory.”  

Trump may think that his contradictory messages on wearing masks is his best path to reelection. In fact, he is jeopardizing the lives of his most loyal followers, not to mention the nation’s public health. 

Gregory J. Wallance, a writer in New York City, was a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He is the author of the historical novel, “Two Men Before the Storm:  Arba Crane’s Recollection of Dred Scott and the Supreme Court Case That Started The Civil War.” Follow him on Twitter at @gregorywallance.