politics of covid

Texas resident Kim Enriquez said catching the coronavirus has not changed her support for President Donald Trump. Armando Gallardo for Business Insider Today

Political rifts surrounding the coronavirus are dividing American families.

Spurred on by President Donald Trump, some people are denying the severity of the pandemic even when their own family members catch the coronavirus.

We spoke to two women who both had the coronavirus to see how it’s impacted their lives and whether it’s changed their pick for the 2020 election.

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COVID-19 is tearing families apart.

Political rifts have caused Americans to clash on the severity of the coronavirus and how to handle the pandemic — even among those who’ve been infected by the virus. 

Even as more than 210,000 Americans have died from the virus and the president himself has contracted it, arguments about the coronavirus continue to play out across the country over mask mandates, lockdowns, and business restrictions.

We spoke to two women on opposite sides of the political spectrum, both of whom survived COVID-19 this year, to see how the virus has impacted their lives and their choice in the 2020 election.

Cindy Nichols-Harigel has been sick for more than five months.

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But a lot of her relatives don’t believe she contracted the virus.

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She said it’s difficult “for family to look you in the eye and say, ‘You’re lying,’ instead of trusting and believing that your family member has gone through this experience that they’re describing, just because you don’t want to believe it.”

Politics of COVID

“Every time we’ve tried to talk to them about it, it’s been, ‘You’re lying, it’s a hoax, it’s a joke, you’re full of it,'” she said. “But by the same token, not a single one of them will come around us. So if it’s a hoax or a joke, why are we being avoided like the plague, if it’s not the plague? Doesn’t make any sense.”

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Cindy has had fevers, chills, and brain fog since April. She’s also had a persistent cough, which she thinks was made worse by her decades-long cigarette-smoking habit.

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Yet many of her family members deny the existence of the virus altogether. “Every time we’ve tried to talk to them about it, it’s been, ‘You’re lying, it’s a hoax, it’s a joke, you’re full of it,'” she said. “But by the same token, not a single one of them will come around us. So if it’s a hoax or a joke, why are we being avoided like the plague, if it’s not the plague? Doesn’t make any sense.”

Politics of COVID

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The arguments became so unbearable that Cindy blocked several of them on social media. “When they started calling me a liar and a hypochondriac,” she said, “you know what? Block. You are done. You are not family to me.”

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Watching the president dismiss the seriousness of the illness over and over again has been especially frustrating for her. She didn’t vote in 2016, but now she’s voting for Joe Biden because she thinks it will save lives.

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Joe Biden delivers remarks on healthcare during a campaign stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Mark Makela

But she’s in the minority in Pensacola, Florida, where Trump got more than half the countywide votes in 2016.

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Trump himself has alarmed experts with his public stance on COVID. He has admitted to downplaying the virus since February and was rarely seen wearing a mask before testing positive. Recently, he took his mask off to wave to cameras while still sick with the virus.

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President Donald Trump watches Marine One from the Truman Balcony as he returns home after receiving treatments for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 5. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

He’s been outspoken against any shutdown. Many of his supporters have followed suit, gathering in crowds at the president’s rallies in spite of restrictions against large gatherings.

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People cheer as Vice President Mike Pence speaks to supporters before President Donald Trump took the stage during a Keep America Great rally on February 20, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Kim Enriquez of Little Elm, Texas, is part of Trump’s faithful base. She got sick with COVID-19 earlier this year. Four months later, she still has a fever, fatigue, coughing, wheezing and stomach issues.

politics of covid

Texas resident Kim Enriquez said catching the coronavirus has not changed her support for President Donald Trump. Armando Gallardo for Business Insider Today

She plans to vote for Trump a second time, unbothered and not surprised by his COVID diagnosis. “My experience with COVID has not changed my viewpoint on Trump at all or the government,” she said.

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A lifelong conservative, Kim said the economy, gun rights, and taxes are all more important issues to her than the pandemic.

Politics of COVID

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“In the Democratic view of shutting down again, it could save lives,” she said. “But how many are you ruining? How many are going homeless? How many are losing cars? How many of them can’t eat?”

Politics of COVID

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Back in Florida, Nichols-Harigel hopes the president’s recent diagnosis will be a wake-up call to those who doubted her, but she’s not confident.

Politics of COVID

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“This virus doesn’t know any politics. Making it political is a human error,” she said. “We all need to come together as human beings, regardless of age, creed, sex, political affiliation, to stop this virus from killing more people.”

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