Health Team

'Not helpful': UNC physician responds to Trump's reflections on COVID-19

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health, reacts to President Donald Trump's behavior upon leaving Walter Reed Medical Center, where he was treated for COVID-19.

Posted Updated

Jessica Patrick
, WRAL multiplatform producer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — President Donald Trump's actions since being released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following three days of treatment for coronavirus have elicited sharp reactions.

Upon his release from the hospital, Trump tweeted, "Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life."

His tweet struck a chord with many health care workers and families of those who lost their lives to the virus, and Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist with UNC Health, said the message could be offensive to people who fought hard against COVID-19.

"So many people have lost loved ones," he said. "To say that we can’t let this virus dominate us really mocks the people who fought really hard to survive and didn't. This isn't a test of wills, this is a very bad virus ... we can't predict exactly who it will hurt and who it will not hurt."

Wohl also said the president's message "is not helpful at all."

"We need leadership at this time," he said. "From a president who now has succumb to COVID-19 himself and become ill and had to be hospitalized, I was hoping we would see a different message."

Wohl said everyone, especially someone who tested positive for coronavirus, should be social distancing, and the president's behavior doesn't reflect that.

Upon returning to the White House on Monday evening, the president pulled off his mask to pose for photos and then walked inside with staffers, still not wearing a mask.
On Sunday, Trump left Walter Reed in a motorcade to wave to the supporters waiting for him outside the hospital.

"The president's message that we should not fear this virus, that he should take off his mask in front of other people and be around other unmasked people, really does send the wrong message," Wohl said. "Fear is not the problem. Denial is the problem, and that is, unfortunately, what I think we are seeing right now."

Wohl also responded to a tweet Trump posted on Tuesday comparing coronavirus to the flu and incorrectly claiming that "sometimes over 100,000" people die from the flu each year.

"I think anybody who is awake and aware knows that this is not just flu season," Wohl said. "We have had a global shutdown. This pandemic has filled our ICUs and our hospitals. Unfortunately, I really am getting frustrated that the White House is sending signals to minimize what has really been devastating for all of us."

During his treatment, Trump was administered the antiviral drug remdesivir and the powerful steroid dexamethasone, two widely-used drugs that are available to patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

He also got a dose of an experimental drug, Regeneron's REGN-COV2 antibody cocktail, which is still being used in clinical trials and is not yet widely available.

According to White House staff, the president is feeling well. He is now recovering at the White House, where he will receive the final phases of his medical care, including a dose of remdesivir.


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