Campaigning for re-election in the middle of a pandemic should require some innovation. But for President Trump, his campaign rallies have been business as usual, with people crowded together and hardly a mask in sight. Now, attendees are paying the price, with a Minnesota health agency saying that Trump's campaign events are linked to three coronavirus outbreaks in the state.
Last month, Minnesota was home to three Trump campaign events: a rally in Bemidji on Sept. 18, a speech by Vice President Mike Pence in Minneapolis on Sept. 24, and a rally held by Trump himself in Duluth on Sept. 30. In an email to CNN, the Minnesota Department of Health said it traced at least 23 cases back to these events.
It can be difficult to blame any single event for a surge in coronavirus cases. However, CNN reported that in the month before the Bemjidi rally, Beltrami County — where the town is located — saw only 2.85 new cases a day, per John Hopkins University. Four weeks after the event, the rate had increased significantly, to an average of 14.57 new cases a day.
Ultimately, Trump and his team know that public health experts have warned against holding crowded indoor gatherings. And yet, the Bemidji rally took place in an airplane hangar, where a CNN producer in attendance reported there were at least 2,000 people. Thanks to contact tracing, the Minnesota Department of Health told CNN that that rally alone resulted in at least 16 cases, including two hospitalizations.
Trump has pushed an anti-mask agenda for months, so this is not the first time his events have been linked to an outbreak. After his flop of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said the event "likely contributed" to a surge in coronavirus cases. "In the past few days," he said at the time, "we've seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it's been clear that the Trump administration's handling of it has been dangerously negligent. On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admitted that the administration won't be able to control the pandemic. But Trump himself continues to go his usual route of attempting to downplay the coronavirus and paint it falsely as part of some larger conspiracy against him.
The news of Trump's campaign events being linked to outbreaks comes following a surge of cases nationwide over the weekend. But even with that news, Trump tweeted Tuesday that after the election, "YOU WON'T BE HEARING SO MUCH ABOUT [COVID] ANYMORE. WE ARE ROUNDING THE TURN!!"
His tweet seems to be suggesting that media reporting on the coronavirus is a ploy meant to sabotage his campaign. In May, his middle son, Eric Trump, made similar claims, accusing Democrats of "trying to milk [the coronavirus outbreak] for everything they can" and claiming falsely that coronavirus will "magically disappear" after Election Day.