President Trump, in defense of his alleged use of a drug the Food and Drug Administration has warned does not offer protection against the coronavirus but does have serious side effects, has insisted that front-line health-care workers are using hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus. Unless they are part of an approved drug trial, that is almost certainly false. (In any event, Trump now claims he will be done taking the drug in a day or two.) Meanwhile, Trump refuses to take the obvious and effective precaution: namely, using a mask.

At his daily news conference, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) provided some useful information:

What shocks me to this day, and I would have lost a lot of money on this bet: How do front-line workers have a lower infection rate than the general population? If I said to you, who is going to have a higher infection rate, nurses in an emergency room, doctors in an emergency room, or the general population, who has a higher infection rate? I think most people would’ve said the nurses in the emergency room, the doctors in the emergency room, the hospital staff. They are going to have a higher infection rate because they are dealing with covid-positive people all day long. Not true.

So why are all these front-line people getting infected less than the general public? It’s not hydroxychloroquine. Cuomo told reporters: “How does the NYPD, police officers who show up who are dealing with people all day long, how do they have a lower infection rate? How does the NYPD have almost half the infection rate of New York City? How can it be? They are the police officers.” He explained: “They are wearing the mask. The mask works. Those surgical masks work, and it’s in the data. It’s not that I’m saying it. It’s in the data and it is otherwise inexplicable.” All those endangered workers are not taking hydroxychloroquine, as Trump claimed; they are doing what Trump won’t do. “They wear the masks. Wear a mask. Remember all those pictures of people in China always wearing masks? Oh, I wonder why they wear all those masks. They were right. The masks work. They are protective and they work. Wear a mask."

It’s par for the course that Trump uses his bully pulpit in dangerous ways, and in doing so misses an opportunity to actually do something productive. Instead of encouraging others to disregard the FDA, he could be modeling good behavior and touting the benefits of mask-wearing, as most public officials are doing. It would offer him protection, as well as those around him. Nope. He is too vain or too afraid to give medical experts credence, so he refuses.

Traveling to a Ford Motor factory in Michigan, Trump was expected to wear a mask like everyone else at the plant. Trump apparently made a fuss (or someone made a fuss on his behalf, knowing he would not tolerate mask-wearing) and refused. Ford, in dereliction of its obligations to provide a safe workplace for its employees, knuckled under. (“When asked if the company would require Trump to wear the equipment, spokeswoman Rachel McCleery said, ‘The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination.’”)

However, Ford is supposed to follow its safety rules, which happen to be embodied in state law. So Trump will not only model dangerous behavior but will also flout the law if he goes maskless. The state attorney general spoke up:

In an open letter to Trump, who so far has refused to wear a mask, Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote, “I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford — and across this state — by wearing a facial covering.” . . . Nessel, in her letter to Trump, wrote that the mask requirement “is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders.”
“It is currently the law of this State.”

Her argument that Trump has “a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus” no doubt fell on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, the governor, who ordered factories to suspend tours and requires people to wear masks when they are in “an enclosed public space,” is loath to pick another fight with him:

“While the president’s visit is contrary to the governor’s order, this is an opportunity to showcase how important Michigan is to the response to covid-19 and rebuilding our nation’s economy,” said Whitmer spokesman Zack Pohl.
The governor does expect Ford and the president to comply with workplace safety requirements, including the use of masks, he said.

That’s a shame. Indulging Trump’s dangerous and illegal (in Michigan) behavior sends exactly the wrong message. But that’s Trump’s MO these days — take the unapproved drugs; reject the masks that actually work; misinform and endanger his own followers who follow his lead. He is a menace to public health and to himself. Too bad no one cares enough to tell him no.

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