As the Trump campaign continues to tour the midwest, surges in cases follow. According toUSA Today, Trump has held nearly three dozen rallies since August. Data shows that COVID-19 cases in hosting counties grew at a faster rate than before in at least five of these rally locations within two weeks after Trump’s visit. In Minnesota, health officials have reported at least three COVID-19 outbreaks related to Trump events in September.
The Minnesota Department of Health found at least 23 coronavirus cases traced to a rally event in Bemidji, a speech by Vice President Mike Pence in Minneapolis, and another rally held by Trump in Duluth, CNN reported. Officials defined an outbreak as “two or more cases of illness related by time and place in which an epidemiologic investigation suggests either person-to-person transmission occurred.” More than 2,000 people were said to be in attendance at the first rally in Bemidji; contact tracing found at least 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, that were traced back to the event. Following consistent Trump events, the state’s average more than doubled from Sept. 18 to Oct. 16.
But Minnesota isn’t the only state Trump visited that saw a significant increase in cases. Cases in Michigan more than doubled in the last week, alongside Nebraska, another place Trump planned to visit Tuesday. Nebraska has currently taken the lead in having the highest rate of test positivity in the nation at 21.5%, data from Johns Hopkins University found. As of this report, the total number of cases in the U.S. has passed 8.6 million, of which more than 250,000 have resulted in death.
Trump events are being called superspreader events as states see increases in the days following the events. According to USA Today, more than 120,000 people have attended Trump campaign events in the past nine weeks. While it’s impossible to confirm whether the rallies were a direct source of infection, the trend of cases following Trump rallies seems like no coincidence. Contact tracing can determine if someone who later developed symptoms was at the rally, but not if they acquired an infection from it.
The only break Trump took from continuing his rallies since August was for his own COVID-19 diagnosis. Despite Trump’s diagnosis, his events practice no social distancing and photos of them depict barely a mask in sight. Additionally, Pence continues to campaign and meet with large crowds despite having been in close contact with individuals confirmed to have COVID-19. Did he quarantine at all per recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? No, of course not.
How can we expect the Trump administration to protect the American people from this pandemic when they refuse to protect themselves? The White House has no plan and has openly expressed its lack of concern for one. “We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
Trump ignorantly maintains that the reason the U.S. is seeing a rise in cases is because we are testing more. “If we did half the testing, we’d have half the cases,” he said during a rally in Wisconsin. But COVID-19 is not something that will just go away if we ignore it—it’s a deadly virus that has not only increased in the number of infections but in hospitalizations nationwide. According to The COVID Tracking Project, coronavirus hospitalizations are up more than 33% over the last month. Yet these numbers mean nothing to Trump, who continues to tweet and rant that COVID-19 is not that serious.
“That’s all I hear about now. Turn on television, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid Covid Covid.’ A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid Covid Covid Covid.’ By the way, on November 4, you won’t hear about it anymore,” Trump said during a rally in North Carolina, according to Vox. He later reiterated the statement almost identically in Ohio—and let’s not forget his favorite spot, Twitter.
Trump’s inability to address the virus as the president is one thing, but consistently encouraging his supporters to not follow safety measures is beyond irresponsible.
The CDC has put campaign rallies under the “highest risk” category for COVID-19 spread. According to the Center for American Progress, rallies in Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina ignored CDC recommendations including social distancing and mask-wearing, and even violated some local and state restrictions on gathering. To the Trump administration, however, the spread of the coronavirus is not as important as campaigning. “It’s a trade-off between doing what’s right for public health or what benefits re-election,” Todd Belt, professor and director of the Political Management Program at The George Washington University, told USA Today. “And over and over, the greater concern for this White House is re-election.”