How to Talk with Your Students about Trump’s Return to the White House

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Doctors discuss Trump's health outside Walter Reed | PBS NewsHour Extra

Analyzing Trump's Return to the White House

President Donald Trump’s diagnosis, treatment and the actions of the president and his staff since diagnosis have puzzled doctors and experts on controlling the virus. For instance, symptomatic cases of the disease typically take 7–10 days after first symptoms before the worst symptoms emerge. Trump was released from the hospital after only five days from reportedly first experiencing symptoms. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. For a transcript of the video, click here

  • Trump’s doctors have released some of his medical information, including details about some of the medications he’s been given. This list of medications includes the steroid dexamethasone, which can be an effective anti-inflammatory but typically only given to patients with very serious cases of COVID-19 because it can weaken the immune response and have other negative side effects.
  • Dozens of people connected to the White House and the president’s political campaign have also been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past two weeks. More than a handful of cases might be traceable to a nomination ceremony at the White House on September 26. However, there appears to be little effort underway to track and trace the path of exposure from that event, even though guests may have taken infection back home with them to communities around the country. For example, one journalist that seems to have been infected at the White House now reports that his wife is also infected, suggesting a chain of infections that aren’t being formally tracked.
  • Some former staffers have claimed that mask wearing is uncommon within the White House. The president himself took off his mask before entering the White House after being discharged from Walter Reed Hospital. Current understanding of COVID-19 and contagion suggests that those infected and symptomatic are likely to be contagious for at least 10 days after earliest symptoms. President Trump was released from the hospital five days after first reporting symptoms, and some White House staff are concerned the outbreak will worsen.



Discussion: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is being interviewed for this piece and what are their backgrounds?
  • What are some of the concerns about Trump’s treatment and return to the White House?
  • When and where has the president been diagnosed and treated? When would he be expected to be COVID free?
  • Why is it important for the public and others to know details about the president’s illness?
  • How does coronavirus spread from one person to another?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus Questions

  1. What do you think the White House’s response should have been as they learned a number of staff members, including the president, were infected with COVID-19?
  2. President Trump has said and tweeted since his release that COVID-19 isn’t much worse than the flu and that there’s no reason to be afraid of the disease or shut down parts of the economy for it. Do you think President Trump’s personal experience with COVID-19 gives him special insight into managing the outbreak across the country? Why or why not?
  3. How do you think careful contact tracing could help lessen the impact of an outbreak? What obstacles make contact tracing less effective?

Media Literacy

 Finding reliable information about COVID-19 can be difficult, especially when politics and political messaging are involved. How do you think you can separate fact from fiction when it comes to a disease scientists are still trying to understand? What resources can you use?

Dig Deeper: Learning how to assess the reliability of information can be one of the trickiest—and most important—lessons in any civic education. Have students examine Student Reporting Lab’s Information Overload site and discuss the following questions:

  1. How do you determine when media might be trying to misinform you or manipulate your opinion?
  2. How can you apply these lessons to what you read about COVID-19?

For a full lesson on how teens have learned to manage disinformation, click here.


Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.