People in the New York neighbourhood where Donald Trump grew up know only too well that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate.
In six months more than 33,000 people have died with the virus in New York and more than 6,000 in the borough of Queens – the city’s worst-hit area.
Elmhurst Hospital in Queens was at the epicentre of New York’s outbreak. The scenes were described by staff as apocalyptic. It was so overwhelmed with patients that refrigerated lorries were brought in to store the dead.
Perhaps little surprise there was a sense of frustration from hospital staff to news the president has tested positive.
“He’s acting like he’s immune, like he’s a superhero. He’s a normal regular person,” said healthcare worker Angel Candelario. “America’s supposed to consider itself a superpower. Right now, it doesn’t look like it.”
This has all come at a deeply testing and tense time for America, and just a month from the presidential election. The country has lost more people than anywhere else in the world to COVID-19 – more than 207,000 lives, accounting for more than 20% of global deaths.
You don’t need to go far in Queens to meet someone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 – and many lost patience with the president’s handling of the crisis months ago.
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“It’s very scary. He should have found a safer way and used his mask,” said hospital worker Audrey Murphy. “If the president has COVID, it gives a bad outlook for everybody else.
“I lost a lot of people that I work with and friends and family. And I just think it should have been handled in a better way.”
The president politicised face masks early on in the pandemic, only endorsing them four months into the crisis. Even then he has only personally been seen in public two or three time wearing a mask – instead, he opts for daily testing and has often referred to himself as the most tested person in America. But testing doesn’t protect from the virus.
Now, Mr Trump’s diagnosis undermines his positive spin on the pandemic and a core message of his election campaign that America is through the worst of the pandemic.
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What will be telling is how his positive test is received by swathes of Americans who believe the threat of coronavirus is being exaggerated to hamper his re-election.
Len Swanson first met Sky News at an anti-masking rally in Texas. He calls himself the face of the resistance to coronavirus measures and is unconcerned by the president’s illness.
“Yes your prime minister got sick but he’s not Donald Trump,” Mr Swanson told Sky News.
“Donald Trump has kept himself in better health conditions than your prime minister did. We’re not concerned with our president. I know he’s got the same attitude and resolve as I do.
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“He is right now conducting meetings. He’s on Zoom meetings. He’s on the telephone now. He’s not sitting in bed. He’s being the president… It’s a hoax. It’s a virus, yes, but it has been politicised as a weapon to strike fear in order to try to derail the Trump government.”
The reality is we don’t know what Mr Trump is doing right now. This is a narrative some of his supporters want to believe – that coronavirus is a hoax and that the commander in chief is still actively at the helm running the country from quarantine. In the coming weeks the reality could be very different if the president’s health deteriorates.
This is a crucial moment in the election cycle – and one of the most testing years in American history. The president’s health has now thrown the country into yet more uncertainty.