The president is campaigning in Green Bay, one of the worst COVID hotspots in the country today.
Hours before President Donald Trump landed in Green Bay for what will be his second-to-last campaign stop in Wisconsin before Election Day, two Wisconsin doctors again pleaded with the president to stop holding events almost certain to contribute to Wisconsin’s unprecedented COVID-19 spread.
Friday marked Trump’s third Wisconsin rally since Saturday, and the campaign’s fifth event overall in as many days, a sign of strategic desperation as he tries to overcome poor polling for the state just days before the election.
He stumped in Waukesha and West Salem on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively, and this time he set his sights on Brown County, home to one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country but also a political prize in politically purple northeastern Wisconsin. He will be back Monday for a rally in Kenosha.
“When President Trump holds an in-person rally and packs people close together with few people wearing masks, he is dishonoring the memory of the people we have lost to COVID-19, and he is needlessly exposing more families across Wisconsin to this disease,” said Dr. Robert Freedland, an opthamologist in La Crosse and the Wisconsin state lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare.
The Trump campaign typically—but not always—holds Wisconsin events outdoors, but it does not require masks or social distancing at rallies. The policy did not change even after Trump was hospitalized with a serious coronavirus infection earlier this month from which he recovered quickly after receiving a degree of care not available to most Americans.
Wisconsin’s COVID spread is the worst in the nation. A New York Times map that tracks outbreaks labels virtually the entire state as a hotspot; a New York Times tracker of the virus broken down by metropolitan area includes nine Wisconsin cities in the top 20 worst hotspots. Green Bay is ranked No. 15.
The Committee to Protect Medicare has held several press calls over the past month to call on Trump’s campaign to stop holding risky in-person events against medical experts’ advice. Freedland and Dr. Madelaine Tully, a family physician from Milwaukee, acknowledged their warnings mean nothing to the president, who has continued to hold packed rallies during the pandemic. However, the two doctors said it was their duty as physicians to keep sounding the alarm.
“If I have to tell Donald Trump 1,000 times to change his behavior, I will,” Tully said.
The risk of a campaign stop in Brown County is great. Over the past two weeks, an average of 36% of coronavirus tests have come back positive in the county, according to local health data. There are more than 15,738 cases in the county as of Friday morning, and 104 people have died of the virus, according to the Department of Health Services.
“When Donald Trump holds a rally and everyone shows up, you say, ‘How is that possible?’” Freedland said. “It’s not safe. They’re not wearing masks.”
Freedland compared Trump to a “false prophet” like Jim Jones, the cult leader who infamously led his followers to mass suicide with poisoned Kool Aid in 1978.
The Democratic National Committee is responding to Trump’s stop in Green Bay, which is set for 2:30 p.m. at Austin Straubel International Airport, with a billboard nearby that reads in all capital letters: “COVID CASES ARE SPIKING. THIS ADMINISTRATION FAILED US.”
“Voters across Green Bay won’t be able to miss this message: Trump was too incompetent and inneffective to respond to the coronavirus, and his failure has cost too many Wisconsinites their lives and livelihoods,” DNC spokesperson Maddie McComb said in a statement.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, as of Friday morning, is scheduled to make some sort of stop at 6:30 p.m Friday in Milwaukee. However, his campaign has not yet revealed what he will be doing or where in Milwaukee he will be though, like all of his events in this late stage of the campaign, it will involve social distancing, masks, and invitations to watch online rather than pack together in an unsafe manner. It will be the former vice president’s third campaign visit to Wisconsin.