Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

“So far we’ve had no problem whatsoever,” Trump said of holding large, in-person rallies, some of which have been indoors. 

During the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night defended holding campaign rallies during the coronavirus pandemic and again minimized the importance of wearing masks, even as public health experts have urged people to wear masks and warned against holding large gatherings. 

“So far we’ve had no problem whatsoever,” Trump said of holding large, in-person rallies, some of which have been indoors. 

Trump’s defense of his rallies comes ahead of a Saturday rally in Wisconsin, where cases are currently surging. Earlier this summer, Trump held an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with thousands of attendees. Among those who joined Trump at the rally was former Republican presidential nominee Herman Cain, who contracted COVID-19 and died the following month

Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart also said the Trump rally “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases. In the weeks preceding the rally, Tulsa County reported under 100 cases a day. In the weeks after the rally, that surged to over 200 cases per day. 

While Trump has since moved some of his rallies outdoors, attendees are often seen crowded together without masks, despite public health warnings and research showing that masks can dramatically reduce transmission of COVID-19.

Trump, who mocked the wearing of masks throughout the spring and early summer, also downplayed the importance of masks again on Tuesday and attempted to insult Democratic nominee Joe Biden for wearing a mask.

“I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Trump said. “He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

While Trump has often gone mask-free, Biden has consistently worn a face covering, in accordance with public health experts’ advice.

An analysis from the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this summer found that in the 16 states where face masks are not required in public, new cases rose by 84% over a two-week period. In contrast, in the 11 states mandating face coverings while in public, new coronavirus cases fell by 25% over that same time period.