President Trump Holds First Campaign Rally Since Coronavirus Diagnosis
People listen as President Donald Trump speaks during his campaign event at the Orlando Sanford International Airport on October 12, 2020 in Sanford, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

At Monday’s rally in Florida, Trump declared himself immune to COVID-19.

President Donald Trump is back stumping on the campaign trail since his release from Walter Reed Medical Center last week due to testing positive for COVID-19. He has six rallies scheduled in the coming days, including in Pennsylvania and Iowa, and a packed schedule through Nov. 3.

Despite the threat that large, unmasked crowds pose for spreading the virus—not to mention a pattern of coronavirus surges in regions following his events—the president has been adamant about holding more in-person events.  

At Monday’s rally in Florida, Trump declared himself immune to COVID-19. “I feel so powerful,” he told reporters before boarding Air Force One to head to Sanford, where teen Trayvon Martin was killed. “I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Just give you a big fat kiss.”

There were no social distancing guidelines in place, and few of the thousands in attendance were seen wearing face coverings. 

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On Tuesday, Florida reported 2,725 new cases of COVID-19.

Infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has voiced concerns that Trump’s apparent disregard for public health officials’ recommendations make it harder to maintain the proper safety messaging to the public.

“You try to get to young people and you tell them, ‘Wear a mask, avoid crowds.’ And they say, ‘Well, what’s the difference if I get infected? The overwhelming likelihood is that I’m not going to get seriously impacted. So, who cares?’” Fauci told STAT Magazine. “And what they don’t grasp is that by getting infected, they’re propagating the outbreak. And by propagating the outbreak sooner or later a vulnerable person is going to get infected. It is a big deal.”

During the presidential debate earlier this month, Trump defended his campaign events: “So far we’ve had no problem whatsoever,” he said of the packed, often indoor rallies. 

Health officials in Minnesota, however, were able to track almost two dozen virus cases to people who attended airport rallies for Trump last month, the New York Times reports. Authorities traced 16 of the cases to a Sept. 18 rally at the airport in Bemidji, three to a Sept. 30 Trump rally in Duluth, and three to a Sept. 24 rally featuring Vice President Mike Pence at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. One person attended both events.

As the number of hospitalizations continue to rise in the state—which is averaging 1,234 new cases a day—Eric Trump, the president’s son, is scheduled to visit Northfield this afternoon.

Although Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, was careful not to definitively say the infected people contracted the virus at the president’s campaign events, officials from other states experiencing surges have not been so reticent. President Trump’s June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, drew thousands of participants and protesters, which “likely contributed” to that state’s alarming spike in new cases, according to Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

The week prior to the Saturday rally, Tulsa County reported 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday. The following week, 261 new cases were confirmed Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. Former Republican presidential nominee Herman Cain, who attended the rally, contracted COVID-19 and died the next month.

“We’ve seen almost 500 new cases,” Dart said at the time. “I guess we just connect the dots.”

The CDC recommends people who’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus to quarantine for at least 10 days from when the symptoms first appeared. According to Trump’s doctors, that onset was Oct. 1. Not only was the president traveling in a vehicle with two other people on Oct. 4, he also appeared briefly before supporters at the White House on Oct. 10.

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