Nine cases of coronavirus have been linked with a rally held by President Donald Trump on September 18 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Health officials told Minnesota Public Radio that two of the nine people have been hospitalized, with one requiring intensive care.
Trump’s campaign attempted to downplay any connection to the cases. “Tying these cases to an outdoor event that occurred three weeks ago, where hand sanitizer and face masks were supplied, is a stretch,” campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told The Hill. “We wish them all speedy recoveries.”
While Joe Biden has suspended large campaign rallies in line with Centers for Disease Control recommendations, Trump has eschewed the warnings of his own administration’s scientists, continuing to hold events indoors and outdoors with hundreds of people. On most occasions, he has refused to wear a mask himself, and has mocked Biden for doing so and otherwise following experts’ recommendations. Last week, the president announced that he had contracted COVID-19, but the White House has declined to provide details on the timing or outcome of his test results. The president continued attending events with supporters after he was exposed and potentially was contagious, including another Minnesota rally on September 30.
The Bemidji event was not the first and will not be the last Trump rally to be linked to the spread of COVID. Former GOP presidential primary candidate Herman Cain, a prominent Trump supporter, died of COVID in July, weeks after attending a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which the city’s top health official said was likely associated with a local spike in diagnoses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has documented that the recent White House event formally announcing his nomination of Amy Cohen Barrett to the Supreme Court, where hundreds of Republican leaders socialized and sat closely outdoors mostly without masks, has already been been linked to 34 cases.
Minnesota’s cases have steadily climbed since September, in concert with the nation’s general failure to keep the disease in check. The United States is now reporting its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections since mid-August, with 57,420 new positives Friday—the third consecutive day of more than 50,000 reported cases—according to Johns Hopkins University. More than two dozen states are now reporting steadily increasing cases.
Some health officials are particularly worried Florida will soon reemerge as a hot spot. “What they’ve done is opened up everything as if nothing had ever happened there and you and I could be talking probably in eight to 10 weeks, and I will likely bet that Florida will be a house on fire,” Mike Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told CNN on Friday.
Despite his illness and continued speculation he could still be contagious, the superspreader-in-chief plans to hold his next swing-state rally on Monday, just a week after he was hospitalized. The location? Sanford, Florida.