They are about thirty gathered in front of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with signs: “Get well quickly”, “We love you”. A group of turbaned Sikhs hold “Sikhs for Trump” signs, others have placed bouquets of flowers … There are many Trumpists among the motorists, judging by the concert of horns waving to the small crowd. They came to support their president who is inside the huge hospital complex and to wish him a speedy recovery. Some wear masks, but not all. Like Kim, a young blonde woman who holds up a sign “Stay strong POTUS [President of the US, NDLR]. We pray for you ”. She is a little worried about Donald Trump’s condition. “But the president is strong, he is a warrior and he benefits from the best doctors in the country,” she says. Nearby, a young man in a white shirt, his face also uncovered, holds a large American flag. The latest news from Donald Trump reassured him, said this photographer. He doesn’t think that if the president had worn a mask he might have escaped the virus? “He’s an adult, he can decide what he wants. It’s a free country, everyone has the right to do what they want, ”he replied.
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The president can neither see nor hear his supporters, nor moreover than the hordes of journalists who camp in front of the entrance. Walter Reed, in the suburbs of Washington, where the president has been hospitalized for a few days due to Covid, is the largest military hospital in the country. It is there, on an enormous site of nearly 100 hectares which has 88 buildings and some 7,000 employees, that members of Congress, the judges of the Supreme Court, and of course, the presidents who serve there come for treatment. their annual check-up. They are treated in the Medical Evaluation and Treatment Unit (METU), located south of the campus. The “presidential suite” occupies 300 m2 on an entire floor with an intensive care unit, and of course, all the comforts possible. It consists of several rooms, office, conference room, living room and bedroom. “It is equipped with secure communication devices to allow the president to work,” wrote in his memoirs Rear Admiral Connie Mariano, a member of the medical team of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His chief of staff and his doctor also have a space of their own, next to it.
Created in 1909, Walter Reed owes its name to an infantry doctor who discovered that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes. The hospital is under the direction of the Ministry of Defense, except for the presidential suite which depends on the White House. But its prestige took a hit in 2007, following an investigation by the Washington post which revealed obsolete facilities and neglect of patients. In the 2000s, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Walter Reed was overwhelmed by an influx of wounded as a result of the use of cluster bombs which terribly maim soldiers. Thousands of amputees, sometimes all four members, have passed through the center and some have stayed for months. Since then, the hospital has moved and merged with that of the navy, on the Bethesda site, a dozen kilometers from the White House.
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Eight American presidents died in the line of duty, four of natural causes and the rest assassinated. But since the gunshot wound of Ronald Reagan in 1981, who incidentally was treated in another hospital, no president has had a serious health problem during his tenure. And it’s very rare for an occupant of the Oval Office to spend the night at Walter Reed, given the medical equipment available in the White House. Ronald Reagan had polyps removed from his colon in 1985 and had prostate surgery two years later, at age 76. In 2002 and 2007, President George W. Bush had two colonoscopies. As for Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan, they both underwent mastectomies as a result of breast cancer. First Lady Melania Trump spent a few days at Walter Reed with a kidney problem in 2018. Her husband is staying there now, due to Covid.
Ironically, he found himself next door to Doctor Fauci, the head of the Institute of Infectious Diseases located across the avenue, who for months had encouraged Americans to wear a mask and practice social distance … A call that created some tensions with Donald Trump.