Akash’s Covid Corner: Trump, Covid and the Election

How will President Trump’s diagnosis with Covid-19 impact the 2020 election?

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With the election imminent, President Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19.

On Friday, October 2nd, 2020, Hope Hicks, who had reportedly recently been in contact with President Trump, tested positive for Covid-19. Donald Trump immediately quarantined, and then also tested positive, along with the 1st lady Melania Trump. On the subsequent day, they both traveled via helicopter to Walter Reed hospital so that President Trump could be closely monitored in case his symptoms worsened. After about three days at Walter Reed, he was transported back to the White House and reported feeling much better. Health experts warn that it could take almost two weeks after exposure to the virus to start displaying major symptoms. This means despite feeling fine for the moment, President Trump is not yet in the clear. This article will cover different scenarios based on the president’s status at the time of the election and what effect his illness may have after the election.

As most people probably know, if the president dies while in office, the vice president takes over. Given President Trump’s current state of health, this is highly unlikely; however, it is possible that he could be deemed unfit to serve. For this to happen, the majority of his cabinet would have to declare him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of office.” They would then have to send a letter to the House’s speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate declaring such. In this case, the vice president would take over temporarily until the president was deemed fit to serve again. The one major flaw of this system is that the president’s cabinet could easily lie about his status to keep him in office. Given that Trump and his administration would not want to show signs of weakness before an election, this would be a real possibility if the situation arose.

The ramifications of lying about President Trump’s ability to lead the country could be serious. If Trump was seriously ill and continued to serve, it is possible that he wouldn’t make clear decisions. During a point in time when we have a pandemic going on, a wrong decision could cost hundreds if not thousands of lives. For this reason, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is trying to form a committee of unbiased government officials who would assess President Trump’s mental state and determine if he is fit to serve. The goal of this is to remove all conflict of interest regarding the election and make the best decision for the president’s health. If such a committee was formed and deemed him mentally fit, that could also significantly affect the election and post-election. For example, Trump has frequently said is that people should not be afraid of the virus. If he can fight it off, he will likely be immune for around three months and will be able to attend events without his mask on with little to no risk, further pushing that it’s nothing to be afraid of. This could be a severe aid to his campaign, which could potentially swing the votes of those skeptical about Covid’s severity.

Currently, Trump has not officially been declared as being non-contagious. Despite this, he has scheduled multiple rallies for the next few weeks. Many people are upset about this, claiming he is endangering his supporters by going out while still potentially contagious. In my opinion, this is a reckless thing to do since there is a good chance he will be cleared in the next week and he could wait. Many of his supporters don’t view it this way. Some say that he needs to get back to rallying as soon as possible, and the longer he waits, the more he hurts his campaign. Although this is true, it is more important to protect his voters’ safety, and if he does so, it will prove those who doubted him wrong.

Overall, the whole situation with Trump having Covid-19 is unique. His exact status is very much up in the air, and it is hard to tell how ill he is; this diagnosis will likely have some effect on the election, and this effect could be positive or negative for him. For the time being, it seems like the situation is under control and he is intensely monitored by White House staff. We can only wait and see what happens.