Trump rallies tied to increase in covid cases
With few face masks and no social distancing to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus, supporters wait for the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump during a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport October 28, 2020 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

New analysis from the Center for American Progress found that about half of the president’s 22 campaign rallies held between June and September were followed by county-level jumps in COVID-19 cases.

Despite warnings from foremost infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci that holding mass rallies unmasked was “asking for trouble,” President Donald Trump continues to do just that, and it’s leaving spikes of coronavirus infections in his wake. 

According to new analysis from the Center for American Progress (CAP), about half of the president’s 22 campaign rallies held between June and September were followed by county-level jumps in COVID-19 cases. Rallies in Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina attracted thousands of attendees, many of whom opted not to wear masks or socially distance, even after Trump contracted the virus. 

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“It’s unbelievable that the president has continued to hold these events, which present a risk to public health, despite contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized himself,” said Thomas Waldrop, policy analyst at CAP and one of the authors of the report.

Most of these events, even ones held outside in airplane hangars, violated local and state rules limiting the size of gatherings to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19. A Sept. 12 rally in Henderson, Nevada, saw more than 5,000 attendees, flouting the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, as well as its mask mandate. Another one, held Sept. 18 in Bemidji, Minnesota, welcomed 2,000 people, almost 10 times the state’s 250-person limit. Local officials linked 16 confirmed cases to the rally.

Using county-level data on COVID-19 positive cases from The New York Times, researchers looked at the average of new cases during the 21 days before and after the rally for each of the 22 rallies Trump held between June and September. There were statistically notable increases in infections following events in 

  • Mankato, Minnesota
  • Bemidji, Minnesota
  • Henderson, Nevada
  • Londonderry, New Hampshire
  • Swanton, Ohio
  • Middletown, Pennsylvania
  • Old Forge, Pennsylvania
  • Newport News, Virginia. 

County cases increased to a lesser extent following rallies in Vandalia, Ohio; Latrobe, Pennsylvania; and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

CAP’s findings are consistent with other recent studies of the president’s rallies. A report published in Stat found COVID-19 cases spiked in seven of the 14 cities and townships Trump had rallied supporters, and USA Today reported that “COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate than before after at least five” of Trump’s campaign rallies since mid-August.

Contact tracers linked at least 26 individual cases of coronavirus to Trump rallies since June, but could not determine if the victims contracted the illness at the events or if they were already infected when they arrived. And CAP researchers only examined information from the counties where rallies took place, despite the very high likelihood of the rallies attracting attendees from multiple counties and likely raising the count of confirmed cases back home. 

“These rallies offer a boost to the president’s ego but risk leaving behind a trail of sickness and increased strain on local public health departments and medical systems,” said Emily Gee, a CAP health economist at CAP and coauthor of the analysis. 

The president’s next campaign rally is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Tampa, Florida. As of Wednesday, 2,340 Floridians were currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

The campaign rallies are a continuation in the Trump administration’s pattern of downplaying or outright ignoring public health guidance during the pandemic. In both the White House administration and on the campaign trail, Trump’s anti-science and politically polarizing culture—even after his own hospitalization with the virus—is endangering the health of everyday Americans, including the people who support him.

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