MAGA hats outnumber masks at crowded La Crosse County race track.
President Donald Trump told a cheering crowd at a campaign stop in West Salem Tuesday that his administration has done an admirable job of containing the coronavirus pandemic, even as Wisconsin experienced a new one-day record 5,262 cases of the virus and 64 deaths.
During an hour-long speech filled with criticisms of his Democratic challenger for president, Joe Biden, Trump referred to the coronavirus as “the China plague” and denounced Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and others who have advocated for public health orders to slow the virus’ spread.
“Let’s get your governor to open it up,” Trump told a cheering audience gathered at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway Track in the city of nearly 5,000 just east of La Crosse in near-freezing temperatures. “We’re turning the corner. We’re rounding the curve. We will conquer this virus.”
In fact, Wisconsin’s economy has been open since mid-May, when the state Supreme Court overturned the safer-at-home order issued by Evers and the state Department of Health Services in March to curb the coronavirus.
Positive cases of the virus have skyrocketed since then, and as of Tuesday totaled 206,311 in the state. The virus has killed 1,852 people, and a record number of patients are hospitalized with COVID-19, with many hospital officials reporting staffing troubles.
In an effort to control the virus, Evers limited capacity in restaurants, taverns, and other businesses. However, those actions have been stayed by a judge. The governor’s order mandating face masks indoors remains but has also been challenged in court.
Many in the audience at Trump’s rally did not wear masks, and instead donned hats bearing the words “Make America Great Again” and carrying signs with that message.
Trump appeared to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19, describing to the crowd how he was hospitalized with the virus earlier this month, and how other family members were infected as well. But they didn’t feel poorly, he said, and after receiving medical treatment for the virus not available to the vast majority of Americans, the president said he “felt like I could take on the world.”
However, public health experts in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the US said as infections continue to surge, so too will deaths. A growing number of younger, seemingly healthy people are dying from COVID-19, they said.
The rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin in recent weeks prompted Evers on Tuesday to urge state residents to stay home as much as possible.
“These deaths we’re seeing now can be prevented,” Evers said during a news conference in which he advocated again for people to wear masks in public, practice social distancing, and avoid gatherings.
Biden for President Wisconsin State Director Danielle Melfi said Trump’s response to the pandemic has been disastrous and has led to a greater number of deaths.
“When Wisconsin sends Joe Biden to the White House, we’ll have a president who will listen to the experts, trust the science, and get this virus under control,” Melfi said in a statement Tuesday.
On several occasions during his rally, Trump referenced his support of law enforcement and decried “the radical left” for questioning police tactics. He referred to protesters in the wake of the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha as “a violent mob” and warned that America won’t be safe under Biden.
“I’m the only one standing between you and the left-wing mob,” Trump said.
Biden has said he supports police and doesn’t want to reduce their funding. Rather, he said, he backs efforts to reallocate those dollars to provide additional services, such as mental health, to police.
Trump has made frequent visits this campaign season to Wisconsin, a state he won by fewer than 23,000 votes when he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton for the presidency in 2016. Polls show he trails Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election. He was in Janesville just over a week ago and in Waukesha on Saturday.