“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweeted James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed.
“They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.”
Dr Leana Wen, a visiting health professor at George Washington University, explaining what she would do if Trump were her patient and suggested such a ride, said: “I’d call security to restrain him, then perform a psychiatric evaluation to examine his decision-making capacity.”
Trump could have expected to generate some sympathy among independent-minded voters after contracting COVID-19. It’s common for citizens to “rally around the flag” in times of crisis, and cut their leaders extra slack.
Biden’s decision to suspend all his negative advertising shows he knows it would be a bad look to attack a political opponent when they’re in bad health.
But Trump and his administration seem to have been on a mission to squander any goodwill the President might have gained from his illness.
The White House’s communications effort has been contradictory and confusing, reinforcing existing beliefs that the Trump administration is chaotic and dishonest.
The updates from White House physician Sean Conley seem to have prioritised boosting Trump’s ego rather than communicating important facts to the American people.
On Monday (AEST) Conley admitted he had failed to inform the public that Trump had been administered supplemental oxygen, even though he had been directly asked about this by reporters.
“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, over his course of illness, has had,” Conley said.
“I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”
The White House communications team has also declined to provide the public with other important details, such as when Trump last tested negative for COVID-19.
Trump is such an unorthodox president that he can seem immune to the normal rules of politics. But his photo-op outside the church didn’t help him politically. Neither did his outlandish debate performance against Biden last week.
And neither, in all likelihood, will his reckless decision to go for an unnecessary car ride while hospitalised with a highly infectious and deadly virus.
Matthew Knott is North America correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.