With the state of Wisconsin considered “an epicenter of the pandemic in the United States” and an internal White House memo just days ago putting it in the “red zone” for Covid-19 spread, President Donald Trump is being freshly accused of “callous disregard for the lives and health of others” in the state by holding a Saturday rally that public health experts warn will likely lead to death and further illness that otherwise could be prevented.
Saturday’s rally is taking place even though top public health officials within Trump’s administration warned this week that such events would kill more people. As the Guardian reports:
Earlier this week, Trump’s own White House task force issued a warning to Wisconsin, which is considered to be in the “red zone” for high infection rates, saying people should avoid crowds if they want do not want to cause “preventable deaths.”
The warning was included in a weekly report issued to governors but not made public. It was reported by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), an investigative non-profit in Washington.
With the rally set to take place in a rural area outside of Janesville, it was reported that attendees would be forced to take shuttle buses — only increasing their exposure to the virus — to get to the event site.
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My god…they are putting anti-maskers on public transportation and shuttling them to their deaths. Unreal. https://t.co/1nMn1AV6BI
— Maureen Mead (@themeadyo) October 17, 2020
Just days ago, the state was forced to open an emergency field hospital outside Milwaukee due to the surge in cases. On Wednesday, Julie Willems Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, explained to the Capital Times that the facility was opened because Wisconsin’s overall health care system was “in crisis” mode. “Many of our ICUs are strained,” Van Dijk said. “And every region of our state has one or more hospitals reporting current and imminent staff shortages.”
More records we did not want to break. 3,861 confirmed #COVID19_WI cases reported since yesterday. And for the first time, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases tops 3,000. Let's work together to protect everyone in Wisconsin and #StopTheSpread: https://t.co/azIna3TqRR pic.twitter.com/PNIiEJ7NCz
— WIDeptHealthServices (@DHSWI) October 16, 2020
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, decried Trump’s decision to go through with the rally, calling it a potential “super-spreader” event that will cost people their lives.
“Wisconsin has had over 10,000 COVID cases in three days,” Pocan tweeted Friday night, and asked Trump: “Why are you still holding a super-spreader rally here?”
Pocan later tweeted a video detailing Trump’s callous disregard and calling on Wisconsites, regardless of political affiliation, to “stay home; avoid large gatherings; wear a mask” in order to stay healthy and prevent further spread of the virus.
Donald Trump, keep your superspreader rally out of Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/ac64VbuQbS
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) October 16, 2020
Pocan was hardly alone in characterizing the Wisconsin rally this way. Kara Purviance, chair of the Rock County Board of Supervisors in Wisconsin, appeared on CNN Friday night and also condemned the president’s dangerous decision to hold the weekend rally despite record infection rates in the state:
“We have seen a record number of positive cases at this time.” Rock County Board Chairwoman Kara Purviance says she’s concerned that President Trump’s upcoming rally in Wisconsin “will be a superspreader event.” https://t.co/L8l2faNO9m pic.twitter.com/YAKWMBzlDo
— CNN (@CNN) October 17, 2020
Speaking with CPI for its reporting on the White House’s internal task force memo, William Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist said the fact that the Trump campaign is making rally attendees agree to liability waivers in case they later become sick with Covid-19, “indicates they know the reality because if they weren’t worried about it then they wouldn’t bother” having people sign them.
“Given the rates of disease currently in Wisconsin,” Hanage told CPI, “we can say pretty categorically this is going to produce opportunity for transmission.”
Wisconsin’s Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Friday lambasted Trump for coming to the state for a campaign stop even as he has refused her repeated requests for increased medical equipment that have been in short supply for months. On Friday evening, she tweeted:
Today, Wisconsin broke another record for new coronavirus cases. The third time this week, and Trump comes to our state tomorrow. We cannot afford more empty promises and a failure to deliver the medical supplies we need to #StopTheSpread.https://t.co/vPbCqAqdPB
— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) October 16, 2020
“On April 13, 2020, I wrote to you on behalf of Wisconsinites calling for the supplies needed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” Baldwin wrote to Trump in a letter sent to the White House on Friday. “In my letter, I urged you to act to deliver this assistance swiftly. It is now six months later, and Wisconsin is still experiencing supply shortages, which couldn’t come at a worse time. Wisconsin is currently experiencing one of the most serious outbreaks in the nation, and health care providers continue to share concerns about supply shortages. It is long past time for you to show leadership and take action to support our state with the supplies that we need and deserve.”