An effort to calculate whether those events have increased the spread of the coronavirus in the United States suggests that “contagious” and “deadly” would also apply.
A rigorous attempt to gauge the after-effects of 18 of the president’s reelection rallies, all held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests they have led to more than 30,000 additional cases and at least 700 additional deaths.
Those casualties would not have occurred if the campaign events had not taken place, according to a team of Stanford researchers. Media coverage of the rallies made clear there was little effort to follow guidelines about social distancing, and mask use was optional for attendees, who typically numbered in the thousands. (Indeed, face coverings were disparaged by the president on several occasions.)
Furthermore, the extra illnesses and deaths almost certainly reached beyond the ardent Trump supporters who attended the rallies, rippling outward to ensnare others in their towns and cities, the study authors said.
“The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” the Stanford team concluded.
The study, led by economist B. Douglas Bernheim, was posted Friday on a website where social science researchers share preliminary work and seek feedback from other scholars.
On Saturday, the findings became fresh campaign fodder as the president stumped at four outdoor rallies in Pennsylvania and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, held two drive-in events in Michigan with former President Barack Obama.
Biden spokesman Andrew Gates said the study supports Democrats’ long-standing charge that Trump’s gatherings have been “super-spreader rallies that only serve his own ego.”
The Trump campaign contends that attendees are exercising their 1st Amendment rights. They are required to submit to temperature checks and are given masks and hand sanitizer upon entering, according to campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella.
“We take strong precautions for our campaign events,” Parella told Politico.
In a bid to determine whether the Trump assemblies really have served as super-spreading events, Bernheim and his colleagues focused on 18 rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 22. Three of those events were held indoors, further increasing the risk of coronavirus transmission.
In an interview, Bernheim made clear that patterns of coronavirus infection vary widely from county to county. But after using an array of statistical methods to make apples-to-apples comparisons, he said the pattern was impossible to ignore: The mass gatherings likely set off chains of transmission that were long and random.
The researchers traced the effects of those chains for up to 10 weeks following each event. During that time, an infected rallygoer might pass the virus to her grocer, who may pass it to