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COVID-19 Victim's Brother On Trump's 'Don't Be Afraid Of It' Remark On The Illness

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Trump checked out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last night, where he was being treated for COVID-19, and checked in with his supporters via a new campaign video. His message was, don't let the coronavirus, quote, "dominate you."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Don't be afraid of it. You're going to beat it. We have the best...

CHANG: Well, more than 210,000 people in the U.S. did not beat it. One of them was 73-year-old Rhoda Jean Hatch of Chicago. Her younger brother, Marshall Hatch, is the pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Church on the West Side of Chicago. We spoke with him back in April. And given President Trump's latest remarks about the coronavirus, we wanted to check back in with him now.

Welcome.

MARSHALL HATCH: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.

CHANG: Well, we're very glad to have you with us again. Can you just tell me what went through your mind when you first heard President Trump's words there that we played?

HATCH: Well, you know, I've been able to have exchange with my family. We are still grieving and grieving along with over 200,000 other Americans. And we thought that that attitude that we saw - it just looked very insensitive, almost insulting to us. I mean, we're still in pain and in mourning. And we want our pain and our grief and our sister's memory to be taken seriously. Her life mattered.

CHANG: Are you worried that there are people in your community who will actually believe the president's message - this idea that you should not be afraid of COVID - when you and your family personally know how dangerous COVID can be?

HATCH: Well, you know, I think that people in our community - I mean, there's some sense of being appalled at the president, quite frankly. I think many of us suspected that when the narrative of COVID-19 began to be concentrated in the Black community as sort of like a Black and brown and poor people or old people's disease, I think we were afraid that the country would simply move on and just kind of deem certain people as expendable. And we want to keep communicating that the people in our community are not expendable.

CHANG: Well, for the people in your congregation who are, on top of grieving community members - are now financially suffering during this pandemic, I'm curious how much of the president's message about getting back to normal life is resonating with them - this idea of doing without social distancing requirements, even though the virus is still spreading. Are people receptive to that message, or is there still a great deal of caution in your community?

HATCH: Well, you know, I just don't think that people in this community feel that they can afford to listen to the president as some kind of source of real information as to what we should do in this pandemic. And then people like my family - quite frankly, we were insulted by the ways that he's almost, in a boastful sense, expressed how good his care has been when we here on the bottom have much less access to that high quality of health care. I mean, it really is almost obscene to have that kind of nonsense coming out of the White House.

CHANG: To hear him talk so casually about the virus, knowing that he's receiving around-the-clock health care, a whole...

HATCH: Yeah, and the times that I personally have been to the cemetery over and over and over again - some of it COVID, some of it people's underlying conditions, some of it the kind of violence that comes from this concentrated poverty and the despair. It's so far removed from reality. It's very difficult to take this president seriously.

CHANG: Marshall Hatch is senior pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Church in Chicago.

Thank you very much for being with us today.

HATCH: Thank you very much for having us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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