President Donald Trump salutes after returning to the White House on Monday after spending three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment of COVID-19. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 6 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for his decision to leave the hospital and return to the White House while he's still infected with COVID-19 -- and for boasting that Americans shouldn't fear the disease.
Trump was hospitalized Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. He was discharged from the hospital Monday evening.
Shortly after his release, Trump tweeted, "Don't be afraid of COVID."
"Don't let it dominate your life," he added. "We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs & knowledge."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, called Trump's message a "bone of contention."
"You look at the now 210,000 people in the United States of America who have died, and you talk about the 7 million who have been infected, the 1 million who have died globally," he said in an interview with the New Yorker.
"I think anybody who is looking at this realistically has to say this is a very serious situation. ... It is a very serious disease that we need to reckon with."
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has previously criticized the Trump administration for communicating mixed messages to the public about the virus.
Trump's message also drew angry reactions online, where health professionals, politicians and other prominent figures denounced it as irresponsible, noting the coronavirus has so far killed more than 1 million people worldwide -- and many more will follow before the crisis is over.
"They showed me [Trump's tweet], he said 'don't let COVID control your life.' Tell that to the 205,000 families that lost somebody," Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told WPLG-TV in Florida.
Biden said Trump picked up COVID-19 because he refused to follow health guidelines and routinely wear a mask.
"Where millions of people have lost their jobs, where people are facing hunger and eviction, to say don't be afraid of the COVID-19 is an absurd statement," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said while campaigning for Biden in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"Of course, we should be afraid of it. It has wreaked havoc on our economy and on all of our lives."
"I am struggling for words -- this is crazy," said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. "It is just utterly irresponsible."
"It will lead to more casual behavior, which will lead to more transmission of the virus, which will lead to more illness, and more illness will lead to more deaths," added Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
"A super spreader of dangerous untruths," tweeted David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser under former President Barack Obama. "Do not follow his advice. Yes, BE afraid of COVID, and act accordingly: masks; social distancing; frequent hand-washing."
Experts say there are several reasons to be concerned about COVID-19, among them: There is no vaccine yet, the coronavirus is highly contagious, many carriers are asymptomatic and flu season is coming.
Some critics pointed to the high level of care Trump received from physicians at the White House and Walter Reed -- care the American public does not have access to.
"You've been under round-the-clock care by the best doctors using the best drugs," actor Chris Evans tweeted. "You just don't care. This is reckless to a shocking degree, even for you."
"Don't be afraid of COVID? Perhaps if one has access to a team of physicians, experimental treatments, and a four-room hospital suite," tweeted Jesuit priest and magazine editor James Martin. "But for everyone else, take every precaution against the disease that has already killed 1,000,000 people worldwide."
President Donald Trump returns to the Truman Balcony of the White House on Monday after three days of treatment for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo