On June 20, President Donald Trump hosted what was his first campaign rally after the coronavirus pandemic had begun in the United States, at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It was an event that health officials opined was responsible for a surge of new cases of COVID-19 in the region a few weeks later. Cases per day in Tulsa County were in the upper-double-digits prior to Trump’s visit, but by the start of July, the county was exceeding 200 cases on a daily basis.
Notably, Herman Cain, a former Republican candidate for president and an ardent supporter of Trump’s who had attended the Tulsa rally, died as a result of coronavirus at the end of July, though it’s not clear whether he contracted the virus from that specific event.
In spite of the belief that Trump’s rally in Tulsa could be considered a “superspreader” event by some, the president continued to hold rallies, where most in attendance have refused to wear masks or practice social distancing, in spite of COVID-19’s continued spread over the summer and fall.
Now, researchers from Stanford University say that Trump’s campaign events have led to tens of thousands of new infections, with hundreds of Americans likely dying as a result of them, too.
The study examined 18 rallies (including the Tulsa event) held between June 20 and September 22, three of which were held indoors and the remaining 15 held in outdoor settings. Researchers compared counties where the rallies took place to other counties that were on a similar trajectory before the rallies happened, to compare how rates changed over time in both places.
Extrapolating the data from these comparisons, researchers believe that 30,000 new cases of COVID-19 likely happened due to these 18 campaign rallies. They also concluded that it’s likely that around 700 deaths came about as a result of these events as well.
The study noted that deaths didn’t necessarily happen to attendees directly, but that the spread of the virus, from attendees to others in their regular social bubbles, may have spread coronavirus elsewhere, resulting in others’ deaths in their communities.
“Our analysis strongly supports the warnings and recommendations of public health officials concerning the risk of COVID-19 transmission at large group gatherings, particularly when the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing is low,” the study stated. “The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death.”
The Trump campaign disputed the study’s findings, with campaign deputy national press secretary Courtney Parella arguing that “strong precautions” are taken for attendees at the president’s rallies.
Such precautions are rarely enforced, however, except for onstage behind Trump or where cameras otherwise show his supporters, to give the impression that rally-goers are being safe, when in reality most in the audience are not.
The Stanford Study seems to confirm a number of other observations made by news media in recent weeks, including a USA Today analysis of five Trump rallies. According to that publication, all of the places where those rallies took place experienced significant surges in coronavirus weeks after the president left.
In the two weeks prior to Trump’s arrival to a Marathon County, Wisconsin, rally in September, for instance, the county saw a 17 percent growth of new cases. Two weeks after his rally happened, the number of COVID-19 diagnoses jumped up by 67 percent, more than double the rate that the state saw during that period of time.
Rather than view these observations as signs he should take a more protective approach to his events, Trump has doubled-down against the idea that coronavirus is dangerous at all, peddling conspiracy theories that wrongly suggest doctors and nurses are making $2,000 for every
COVID-19 death that is counted, for example. The president has also claimed that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic — a suggestion that flies in the face of recent data.
On Friday, 100,233 new coronavirus were documented, the highest single-day number seen in the country since the crisis began, and the first time that more than 100,000 new diagnoses had been made within a 24-hour time period.
Overall, more than 9.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with the virus since March. More than 236,000 have died from coronavirus, according to the most recent figures released on Sunday from Worldometer.
According to a projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, more than 90,000 more Americans are projected to die by New Years Day, if conditions remain the same with no changes.
However, if 95 percent of Americans wore masks between now and then, that number would drop by about a third; and if masks were worn through February 1 of next year, the number of projected deaths would drop by more than 60,000 between then and now.