Donald Trump was unfit to lead before COVID-19, but in a pandemic, his dangerousness is particularly visible. From the beginning, the president has wanted to keep testing and numbers of official cases low, even though finding out who is sick and quarantining them is the best hope of stopping the virus from spreading. He initially encouraged people to go to work, saying the virus would disappear one day “like a miracle.” He has not taken action on building emergency hospitals, providing relief for the thousands of people now unemployed, and seems to just be holding press conference after press conference with no solution in sight.
The press conferences and his Twitter account are where Trump has been floating ideas about a potential cure for coronavirus appearing out of thin air. Without clinical trials, there is no vaccine or cure approved for COVID-19. That hasn’t stopped the president from suggesting that people take unregulated doses of powerful medicines, as he did in a series of tweets:
Hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Azithromycin in combination have shown some early promise against COVID-19, according to the Huffington Post. This mix has not been approved as safe or effective by the federal Food and Drug Administration, however, and it can kill those who take it. Doctors, including Trump’s top science adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned this is a terrible thing to try and consume.
When Fauci was asked at a press conference is Trump should be offering medical advice on Twitter, Fauci responded that there is anecdotal evidence that a cure from these meds could be possible, but it has not been fully tested nor confirmed yet.
Fauci on Trump's tweets recommending unproven coronavirus treatments: "I'm not totally sure what POTUS was referring to ... many of the things out there are what I have called 'anecdotal reports.' They may be true, but they're anecdotal ... POTUS is talking about hope for people" pic.twitter.com/ekwFnuhIRR— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 21, 2020
“If you really want to definitively know if something works, you got to do the kind of trial that [gives you] the good information,” he said. “The president is talking about hope for people.”
The president also told people that a vaccine was imminent, saying at a press conference, “It’s been approved…they took it down from many, many months to immediate.”
And the combo he is suggesting can cause a deadly heart arrhythmia, which doctors rushed to Twitter to warn against:
#FactsNotFear@WHO has NOT approved the use of chloroquine for #COVID19 management. Scientists are working hard to confirm the safety of several drugs for this disease.— NCDC (@NCDCgov) March 20, 2020
Please DO NOT engage in self-medication. This will cause harm and can lead to death.#COVID19Nigeria pic.twitter.com/K6kljq0VtW
Hi @jack for the safety of the country and to prevent runs on medications can you please suspend @realDonaldTrump’s account. These kinds of tweets are going to cause chaos and mass panic. If not, can you at least delete this tweet and tweets of his that involve medications? pic.twitter.com/KMjRRh2JDP— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) March 21, 2020
I reported this tweet for encouraging self-harm. These medications when taken together can cause a serious and potentially fatal irregular heart beat (arrhythmia). They can only be taken together with careful in patient monitoring pic.twitter.com/1MWFFnj43i— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) March 21, 2020
Both plaquenil & azithromycin can potentially cause a cardiac disturbance called prolonged QTc. Taken together, these drugs might cause a fatal arrhythmia (torsades de pointes). Or they might help clear virus from the blood. We don't really know. Strong opinions on both sides.— Matt McCarthy (@DrMattMcCarthy) March 20, 2020
Taking Hydroxychloroquine & Azithromycin together causes a drug interaction that increases risk of irregular heartbeat, which may be life-threatening. No one should take these drugs together without consulting a doctor.https://t.co/r5tQ2cFOiDhttps://t.co/ielNQBIIQl https://t.co/S4jy4gbpIg— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 21, 2020
🛑Hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil) can prolong the QT interval (heart rhythm) and can cause a FATAL arrhythmia. Azithromycin can also prolong the QT interval, so use of these 2 drugs together should ONLY be done under the supervision of a doctor. pic.twitter.com/ghtYMmFjBA— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) March 21, 2020
Please don't take hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) plus Azithromycin for #COVID19 UNLESS your doctor prescribes it. Both drugs affect the QT interval of your heart and can lead to arrhythmias and sudden death, especially if you are taking other meds or have a heart condition.— Dr. Edsel Salvana (@EdselSalvana) March 21, 2020
This level of misinformation spread from someone who is supposed to be a world leader is terrifying. Nigeria has reported two chloroquine poisonings since Trump’s tweets and had to send an emergency warning to citizens to not attempt self-treatment at home.