President Donald Trump is holding a rally in Wisconsin just three days after the state opened an emergency field hospital to respond to surging numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Wisconsin recorded its worst day yet of the pandemic on Thursday, with 3,747 new cases, 17 more deaths and a record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It has had more than 1,500 deaths from the virus this year. The state opened a field hospital on Wednesday — a grim sight on the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in the suburbs of Milwaukee — that resembles a wartime medical unit.
Trump and his reelection campaign are expected to hold a rally on Saturday at a regional airport in Janesville, Wisconsin, only an hour’s drive away. Attendees at the rally will be given temperature checks, masks and access to hand sanitizer, according to the campaign. However, Trump’s campaign events have thus far explicitly broken the social distancing guidelines issued by his own administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The president previously canceled a campaign stop in Janesville after he and more than two dozen members of his staff and administration tested positive for COVID-19 in early October. Trump has only further downplayed the severity of the virus since becoming sick himself. The president held his first rally since his diagnosis in Florida, where thousands of supporters stood side by side, many without masks.
The president has been telling his supporters he feels more “powerful” since recovering from the virus. “I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience,” Trump said, purporting immunity. “I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Just give you a big fat kiss.”
On Thursday, Trump went on Fox Business and praised Republican governors who have allowed businesses to reopen and skirted mask mandates, despite rising case numbers nationwide.
“We’re not doing any more lockdowns and we’re doing fine,” Trump said.
The country is far from fine, and Wisconsin is a prime example. The state has seen more cases since the start of September than in the preceding eight months.
For weeks, Wisconsin officials have been warning the state could face a shortage of hospital beds and staff, particularly in the central and northeast areas, as cases continue to increase. Opening the field hospital was seen as a last resort. That happened this week, with beds ready for 50 patients who need limited care but are not healthy enough to be sent home. The facility will be able to treat up to 530 patients when at full capacity.
On Wednesday, state data showed a record high of 1,017 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, with 246 of them in intensive care units.
On Wednesday, state data showed a record high of 1,017 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, with 246 of them in intensive care units. Wisconsin broke another unfortunate record that day with its highest average of cases: 2,727 a day over the last seven days.
The state had 1,874 hospital beds immediately available as of Wednesday. It has 2,337 ventilators, 449 of which were currently being used that day.
Trump called his coronavirus diagnosis a “blessing” and told Americans not to fear the virus that has already killed more than 200,000 Americans and is on track to kill close to 300,000 by the end of the year.
Wisconsin Republicans have been following Trump’s lead throughout the pandemic, downplaying the virus’s risk and denying Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ calls to implement stricter lockdown orders.
The Republican-controlled state legislature won a lawsuit earlier this year striking down Evers’ stay-at-home order, when the state had significantly fewer cases than it does now. The governor is facing a legal fight over his statewide mask mandate. Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who tested positive for COVID-19 in early October, said the virus that has already killed more than 1,500 Wisconsinites “is not a death sentence.”
This week, a state court upheld the mandate, but the conservative group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has vowed to appeal the decision. State Republicans have the power to strike down the order legislatively but have yet to do so.
Large public events have been known to spread the virus, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from holding campaign rallies.
“We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said of Trump’s rallies in an interview with CNN this week. “We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens. And now is even more so a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the United States, it’s really very troublesome.”
Trump clearly doesn’t think so.
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