Donald Trump to Hold a Rally for 10,000 People in Iowa as COVID-19 Hospitalizations in Hawkeye State Reach New High
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Iowa reached new highs on Wednesday hours before President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in the State Capitol of Des Moines for 10,000 people.
“As of Wednesday, the state had 1,492 deaths and 101,812 confirmed positive cases since the pandemic began,” KIMT3 reported. “The number of people in hospitals also reached a new high Wednesday with 473 people hospitalized with COVID-19. The number of people admitted with the virus in the past 24 hours was third highest.”
According to the White House’s own coronavirus task force, Iowa is a “red zone” while the capital city and surrounding Polk County are “yellow zones,” where gatherings are recommended to be limted to 25 people.
“Iowa is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 6th highest rate in the country,” the report, released on October 4, states. “Iowa is in the yellow zone for test positivity, indicating a rate between 5.0% and 7.9%, with the 12th highest rate in the country.”
The Des Moines Register reported:
A Des Moines airport spokeswoman said local officials were told to expect up to 10,000 people at the rally. Trump campaign officials have said rally-goers will have their temperatures checked, will be given masks and will be encouraged to wear them.
This has raised concerns among Iowa health officials that Trump’s campaign stop could become another “superspreader” event, given the habitual lack of masks and flouting of social distancing guidelines by the president and his supporters.
A majority of people who contract the coronavirus do not show symptoms, or if they do, they are mild and can easily go unnoticed or be mistakenly attributed to a cold or allergies.
Lina Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, is particularly worried about presidential staffers – who have had close contact with Trump since his diagnosis earlier this month – and attendees unknowingly carrying the virus and passing it along to others.
“If anyone in attendance is infectious, we are potentially looking at another super-spreader event,” Tucker Reinders wrote on Tuesday in an email to the Des Moines Register. “We again today set a record high for hospitalizations. We need to be focusing on bringing those numbers down and controlling the spread, not enabling large events, political or otherwise.”
Despite warnings from health experts and receiving regular updates from the Trump administration’s task force, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has personally encouraged residents to show up to support Trump, with whom she is politically allied.
“Make sure to request your free tickets for the upcoming rally w/President @realDonaldTrump,” Reynolds tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “It will be this Wednesday at 6:00 PM in Des Moines! Protect Iowa’s future, and show your support for President Trump! #Trump2020.”
Make sure to request your free tickets for the upcoming rally w/President @realDonaldTrump. It will be this Wednesday at 6:00 PM in Des Moines! Protect Iowa’s future, and show your support for President Trump! #Trump2020 https://t.co/x7fef4MLMa
— Kim Reynolds (@KimReynoldsIA) October 12, 2020
A spokesman for Reynolds later said that safety precautions would be in place.
“Governor Reynolds looks forward to attending Wednesday’s rally that is taking place outside,” Pat Garrett told reporters. “She will continue to take precautions and is encouraging those attending to adhere to the public health steps the campaign is taking such as temperature checks, and the use of hand sanitizer and masks.”
Except the rally is not going to be outside – it will be held in an empty aircraft hangar.
Thus, these assurances have done little to quell the worry among infectious disease experts, who have cautioned that being outside is not a sure-fire way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“A hangar does not have the same air circulation as the true outdoors do,” Doctor Christine Petersen, University of Iowa Epidemiology Professor and Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.
“Being outdoors is not a guarantee,” she said. “It’s better, but it’s not magic.”
Last Saturday, Trump held a campaign-style powwow at the White House – while he was still contagious – where he gave a brief speech without wearing a mask.
Masks were distributed, but their usage was not enforced or even required for the 2,000-plus people who showed up.
On Monday and Tuesday, Trump held rallies in Sanford, Florida, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, respectively, at which he and most of the people in attendance did not wear masks.
Past campaign events have been linked to spikes in cases. For example, Trump’s rally in Duluth, Minnesota two weeks resulted in at least 19 people receiving positive COVID-19 tests.
Tonight’s jampacked Trump-fest has the potential to be an even bigger public health hazard, given the large crowd that is anticipated.