WASHINGTON (AP) — There are no crowds at Disneyland, still shut down by the coronavirus. Fewer fans attended the World Series this year than at any time in the past century. Big concerts are canceled.
But it’s a different story in Trumpland. Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters regularly cram together at campaign rallies around the country — masks optional and social distancing frowned upon.
Trump rallies are among the nation’s biggest events being held in defiance of crowd restrictions designed to stop the virus from spreading. This at a time when public health experts are advising people to think twice even about inviting many guests for Thanksgiving dinner.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, when you have congregate settings where people are crowded together and virtually no one is wearing a mask, that’s a perfect setup to have an outbreak of acquisition and transmissibility,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently told Yahoo News. “It’s a public health and scientific fact.”
The Trump campaign, which distributes masks and hand sanitizer at its rallies, says those who attend are peaceful protesters who, just like Black Lives Matter demonstrators, have a right to assemble. The president says he wants to get the country back to normal.
Some states have fined venues that host Trump rallies for violating caps on crowd size. But the rallies continue — even as the U.S. sees cases spike, especially in the Midwest and the Plains. The nation posted a record high number of new infections last week — nearly 500,000.
And the crowds keep turning out for Trump.
Ysabel Benejam, 69, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, drove about 90 minutes to Lansing and waited more than four hours in rainy, near-freezing temperatures to see Trump on Tuesday.
“I’m not afraid at all,” said Benejam, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a mask emblazoned with “Trump 2020.” “We need to step back into normality.”
Democrat Joe Biden, in contrast, has shunned rallies and instead holds online and drive-in events where people honk their horns to show support. He calls the Trump rallies “super-spreader events” and says he’s listening to the warnings of public health experts.
Since Feb. 7, when Trump told author Bob Woodward that he knew the coronavirus was airborne and deadlier than than the flu, the president has hosted more than 50 rallies in more than two dozen states. They were halted during most of March, April and May because of the