Donald Trump’s re-election campaign will once again stage major rallies amid the Covid-19 pandemic on Saturday, this time in parts of the country reportedly deemed "red zones" by his own White House coronavirus response task force.
Thousands of the president’s supporters are expected to gather in large crowds this weekend in Wisconsin, a state with one of the highest rates of new Covid-19 cases in the country, according to tracking data published by Johns Hopkins University. At least 119,955 people in the state have already been infected with the novel virus, and 1,300 people have died.
Mr Trump intends to move forward with the in-person rallies as scheduled, despite the White House task force identifying parts of Wisconsin as areas where an “exponential growth in infections” may occur without strict social distancing guidelines in place.
The new report, which was sent to state officials by the White House task force and not disclosed publicly, specifically listed two cities in Wisconsin where the president was scheduled to greet his supporters on Saturday — La Crosse and Green Bay — as parts of the state where community spread was a major risk, according to the Washington Post.
Hospitals in the metropolitan region where Mr Trump was scheduled to hold his rally were nearing capacity, the newspaper reported, with the Bellin Health System indicating it was already at 94 per cent capacity.
The president used Tuesday’s night debate to boast about the size of crowds at rallies held throughout the pandemic — claiming he brought “35 to 40,000 people” to his events “because people want to hear what I have to say” — and defended his decision to host massive in-person events that largely go unmasked and without proper social distancing measures in effect.
Mr Trump claimed there was “no negative effect” his rallies were having when it comes to the ongoing spread of Covid-19 in the US.
He also mocked his competitor Joe Biden for hosting smaller, socially distanced events in recent months where he claimed only “three people” showed up at times.
The novel coronavirus has killed over 200,000 Americans and one million people worldwide. Meanwhile, scientific experts — including members of the president’s White House coronavirus response task force — have urged states and local governments to step up their Covid-19 safety measures in the days ahead.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and member of the White House coronavirus response task force, warned just this week that now was the time to “double down” instead of relaxing coronavirus restrictions, as the president seemed intent on.
“As we get into the fall and the winter, you really want the level of community spread to be as low as you possibility get it”, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert told ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday.
“There are states that are starting to show uptick in cases and even some increases in hospitalizations in some states,” he added. “I hope not but, we very well might start seeing increases in deaths … You don't want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold.”