Supporters of President Donald Trump pack together at a campaign rally at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport on October 17, 2020 in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Supporters of President Donald Trump pack together at a campaign rally at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport on October 17, 2020 in Janesville, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor joins demand that the president stop holding events that put lives at risk and normalize unsafe behavior.

On the heels of a campaign rally President Donald Trump held in Janesville over the weekend, Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes joined an organization called Protect Our Care to call for the President to cancel all rallies going forward, accurately labeling them as “superspreader” events. 

In a Monday morning online press conference, Barnes was joined by Dr. Howard Forman of Yale Medical School, Dr. Angela Rasmussen of Columbia University School of Public Health and Arizona State Rep. Athena Salman. Trump’s campaign was scheduled to hold two rallies in Arizona on Monday.

Barnes pointed out that both Wisconsin and Arizona have seen their COVID-19 cases rise recently and that rallies where masking and social distancing are not enforced risked becoming superspreader events.

“Donald Trump is going to places where the spread is out of control already or heading in that direction and he’s making it worse,” Barnes said. 

Barnes gave the example of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August, which public health officials say played a role in the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the Upper Midwest

Barnes said it would be one thing if these events only affected attendees but, “The impact of these events rips through communities and have a deadly impact on individuals who have no connection to the event at all.”

Some individual cases of COVID-19 have been tied to Trump rallies but it is difficult to calculate exactly how many people have contracted the virus from these events and how they’ve contributed to larger outbreaks. Forman said this is in part because, “these are the people who are least likely to engage in the public health system to prevent the spread,” because many believe Trump’s messaging that has downplayed the risk of the virus.

“Consciously or unconsciously they are attending (the rallies) to prove the President is right,” Forman said. 

Trump had held recent airport rallies in Mosinee and Oshkosh prior to last weekend’s Janesville appearance. COVID-19 numbers in Marathon and Winnebago counties shot significantly higher, coinciding with increases statewide people reduce or curtail using proper safeguards.

Forman said the rallies also present a secondary risk in that they are modeling risky behaviors.

“In this situation the President has a responsibility and an ability to lead by example and he is choosing not to,” Forman said. “There are literally tens of thousands of people who lost their lives for no other reason than they were modeling bad behavior.”

When asked how they would respond to claims that their call to cancel rallies is political and not in the interest of public health, Barnes pointed to Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine who continues to advocate for Ohioans to wear masks and take other precautions.

Forman lamented that COVID-19 mitigation measures were politicized in the first place.

“These are nonpartisan and nonpolitical messages,” Forman said. “It is a disaster for our nation that it has become political but it is not political. It is fact-based. It is science.”