Are Trump’s rallies spreading coronavirus? Why it’s hard to know the full impact

(Reuters) – Stanford University economists estimate that President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies have resulted in 30,000 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely led to more than 700 deaths overall, according to a paper posted online this weekend.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump waves to supporters from the presidential limousine while departing a campaign rally in Newtown, Pennsylvania, U.S., on October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

The research, led by B. Douglas Bernheim, chair of economics at Stanford University, analyzed data following 18 Trump rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 22, three of which were indoors. Bernheim said in an email the work relies on statistical methods to infer causation after an event has occurred.

Infectious disease experts have long suspected that the president’s rallies ahead of the Nov. 3 election might be so-called superspreader events. But so far, scientists have not been able to get a good read on their impact, in part because of a lack of robust contact tracing in many states.

WHAT IS THE CONCERN?

In recent months, Trump has held several dozen rallies in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where coronavirus infection rates were already on the rise.

At each event, several thousand people were estimated to have participated. While most of the rallies were held outdoors, video footage show that participants gathered in close proximity and many were not wearing masks, creating a risk of spreading the virus as they cheered their candidate on.

“It’s not a major stretch” to say that large unmasked gatherings are likely to spread the virus, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Adalja said the Stanford paper was “suggestive” of spread from the events, but not definitive because it was not based on an investigation of actual cases. That would help confirm whether participants were exposed to the virus at the event, rather than other places where transmission is rampant.

WHAT DO WE KNOW?

Minnesota public health officials have attributed four COVID-19 outbreaks and more than 25 cases to Trump rallies held in the state in September and October.

An additional 11 state health departments contacted by Reuters said they had not been able to trace infections to the rallies, although some, including Michigan and Wisconsin, have determined that individual people who later tested positive for COVID-19 were present at Trump campaign events.

WHAT DATA ARE NEEDED?

Disease experts say that rigorous contact tracing from one such large event could help arrive at an accurate prediction of how infectious such rallies can be.

But the United States has fallen behind other developed countries in this regard, due to a lack of funding and coordination for contact tracing by the Trump administration.

“The problem is we’ve not done anything to get real numbers,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. Instead, it is subject to conjecture and mathematical models.

For

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Explainer: Are Trump’s Rallies Spreading Coronavirus? Why It’s Hard to Know the Full Impact | Top News

By Julie Steenhuysen and Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) – Stanford University economists estimate that President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies have resulted in 30,000 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely led to more than 700 deaths overall, according to a paper posted online this weekend.

The research, led by B. Douglas Bernheim, chair of economics at Stanford University, analyzed data following 18 Trump rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 22, three of which were indoors. Bernheim said in an email the work relies on statistical methods to infer causation after an event has occurred.

Infectious disease experts have long suspected that the president’s rallies ahead of the Nov. 3 election might be so-called superspreader events. But so far, scientists have not been able to get a good read on their impact, in part because of a lack of robust contact tracing in many states.

In recent months, Trump has held several dozen rallies in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where coronavirus infection rates were already on the rise.

At each event, several thousand people were estimated to have participated. While most of the rallies were held outdoors, video footage show that participants gathered in close proximity and many were not wearing masks, creating a risk of spreading the virus as they cheered their candidate on.

“It’s not a major stretch” to say that large unmasked gatherings are likely to spread the virus, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Adalja said the Stanford paper was “suggestive” of spread from the events, but not definitive because it was not based on an investigation of actual cases. That would help confirm whether participants were exposed to the virus at the event, rather than other places where transmission is rampant.

Minnesota public health officials have attributed four COVID-19 outbreaks and more than 25 cases to Trump rallies held in the state in September and October.

An additional 11 state health departments contacted by Reuters said they had not been able to trace infections to the rallies, although some, including Michigan and Wisconsin, have determined that individual people who later tested positive for COVID-19 were present at Trump campaign events.

Disease experts say that rigorous contact tracing from one such large event could help arrive at an accurate prediction of how infectious such rallies can be.

But the United States has fallen behind other developed countries in this regard, due to a lack of funding and coordination for contact tracing by the Trump administration.

“The problem is we’ve not done anything to get real numbers,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. Instead, it is subject to conjecture and mathematical models.  

For example, scientists can use gene sequencing to trace minute changes in the genetic code of the virus as it passes from one person to another, allowing them to develop a map of where the virus travels. Such work has been

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Trump rallies linked to 30,000 COVID cases

A new Stanford study concludes that Trump rallies resulted in more than 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely caused more than 700 deaths among attendees and their close contacts.

“The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” concludes the research, conducted by economists from the university’s Institute for Economic Policy Research.

The new analysis, which is not peer-reviewed, studies the trajectory of the pandemic in counties that were the sites of 18 Trump campaign rallies last summer in cities such as Phoenix, Tulsa and Pittsburgh. It compared case counts before and after rallies, as well as case counts in rally counties to counties without rallies.

Video: CNN analysis shows new rise in coronavirus cases in counties that held Trump rallies

Although published in the waning days of the campaigns, it asserts that its goal was scientific.  It compared the number of confirmed cases in rally counties with matched counties where there was no rally — revealing the impact of large group gatherings on viral spread.

The events had been criticized by public health officials for not enforcing social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing. Photographs show gatherings of large crowds with signs and banners. Some rallies were indoors, such as a June 23 event at a Phoenix megachurch.

In response, the Trump campaign said it took steps to protect rally attendees, such as posting signs that urge the use of masks.

“Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events, requiring every attendee to have their temperature checked, providing masks they’re instructed to wear, and ensuring access to plenty of hand sanitizer,” Courtney Parella, the campaign’s deputy national press secretary, said in a statement.

The Biden campaign seized on the study, saying it is further evidence that Trump is holding “super-spreader” events.

“Donald Trump doesn’t even care about the very lives of his strongest supporters,” spokesman Andrew Bates told The Washington Post.

The study was led by economics professor B. Douglas Bernheim, who is also chair of Stanford’s Department of Economics and a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Three doctoral students — Nina Buchmann, Zach Freitas-Groff and Sebastian Otero — contributed to the project.

Trump rallies have several distinguishing features that lend themselves to a study of contagion, according to the team.

For example, they are individual events that occur on identifiable days.  Also, because they take place in a specific county, their consequences can be compared with similar counties without such gatherings. It is also possible to compare COVID-19 prevalence before and after the rallies.

The team concluded that the rallies increased the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 by more than 250 per 100,000 residents in those counties.

 

 

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Super-spreading Trump rallies led to more than 700 COVID-19 deaths, study estimates

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 30: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport on October 30, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. With four days to go before the election, Trump trails former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the state which Trump won by less than 1 percent of the vote in 2016. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
President Trump speaks during a crowded campaign rally Friday in Green Bay, Wis. A new study estimates that more than 700 COVID-19 deaths are related to his rallies. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

President Trump has described his campaign rallies as “fun,” “wonderful,” “the Greatest Show on Earth,” and, of course, “BIG.”

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

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Study links Trump rallies to more than 700 Covid deaths

President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies between June and September may have caused some 30,000 coronavirus infections and more than 700 deaths, according to a new study by Stanford University economists.



a person standing in front of a crowd: President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for continuing to hold events with large, tightly packed crowds in states that are experiencing outbreaks.


© Scott Olson/Getty Images
President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for continuing to hold events with large, tightly packed crowds in states that are experiencing outbreaks.

The working paper, released late Friday, examined the impact of 18 rallies held between June 20 and Sept. 30 by comparing spread of the virus after each event to parts of the country that didn’t host rallies. The findings illustrate the risks of not heeding public health warnings to wear masks and avoid large gatherings to mitigate the risks of Covid-19, the authors — including B. Douglas Bernheim, the chair of Stanford’s economics department — wrote.

“The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” they wrote. Fifteen of the 18 events studied were held outdoors.

Trump has drawn criticism for continuing to hold events with large, tightly packed crowds in states that are experiencing outbreaks. Many in attendance, including Trump, have not worn masks.

Joe Biden’s campaign seized on the findings Saturday as evidence Trump hasn’t taken the coronavirus pandemic seriously. “He’s even costing hundreds of lives and sparking thousands of cases with super spreader rallies that only serve his own ego,” Biden spokesperson Andrew Gates said.

Former President Barack Obama also cited the study on Saturday during an appearance with Biden in Michigan.

Trump campaign spokesperson Courtney Parella said attendees at the rallies have their temperature checked and are given masks that they are instructed to wear. Hand sanitizer is also provided.

“Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the President of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events,” Parella said.

Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the study is reminiscent of research that tried to quantify the impact a large motorcycle rally held in Sturgis, S.D., in August had on Covid-19 spread over the summer. While the design of the Stanford study appears fine, the methods are “not particularly robust,” he cautioned.

“There are better ways to look at this data through actual infectious disease epidemic lenses,” Mina said. “It offers a data point, but nothing I would want to draw any strong conclusions from. It is also so overtly political that it makes it hard to distinguish if there were decisions made out of perhaps unrecognized bias.”

But Eleanor Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, said the paper “applies an appropriate method with some good robustness and sensitivity checks.”

“If the key underlying assumption is realistic then the answer is probably something that could be relied upon,” Murray said.

More than 9 million people in the United States have been infected with Covid-19 and the virus has claimed the lives of more than 230,000.

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As virus surges, Trump rallies keep packing in thousands



President Donald Trump gestures as he is introduced by first lady Melania Trump during a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


© Provided by Associated Press
President Donald Trump gestures as he is introduced by first lady Melania Trump during a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

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.



Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an airport rally, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


© Provided by Associated Press
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an airport rally, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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.



President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


© Provided by Associated Press
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

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

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Huge crowds gather at rallies, raising coronavirus fears

People look on as RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav leaves in a helicopter during an election campaign rally at Masaurhi on October 21, 2020 in Patna
Large crowds have been seen in political rallies in BIhar

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked people not to be complacent during the festive season, urging them to continue wearing masks and follow social distancing.

But the message doesn’t seem to have reached the northern state of Bihar where large crowds have massed at political rallies ahead of state elections, scheduled to begin on 28 October.

All parties, including Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have ramped up campaigning ahead of the elections.

Footage from some of the rallies shows people jostling to get a glimpse of politicians, and hardly anybody appears to be wearing masks.

Virologists and doctors called the large gatherings “callous” and said that such complacency could have devastating consequences, enabling the virus to spread much faster.

India has recorded more than seven million cases so far, but its daily case count has been steadily dropping in recent weeks even as testing has remained consistent. Although some have said this suggests that the worst of the pandemic is over, others have cautioned against celebrating too soon.

The Election Commission has also warned politicians against flouting Covid-19 safety rules. But it seems to have had little impact as crowds continue to gather at rallies.

Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel says political parties need to be more responsible and they need to educate their cadre.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses an election campaign rally ahead of Bihar Assembly election on October 22, 2020 in Hasanpur, India.
Social distancing has not been enforced in Bihar’s election rallies

“We see thousands of people in these rallies and hardly anyone with a mask. It is the responsibility of every political party to ask its followers to follow safety rules.

“That is the only way we know to prevent infection [from spreading],” he told the BBC.

The first phase of polling will be held on 28 October, and the other two phases will follow on 3 and 7 November. Results will be announced on 10 November.

The BJP-led coalition is seeking to be voted back into power – it’s facing opposition from an alliance of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress party, and also from other regional parties.

The stakes are high for all political parties. Their initial campaigns were virtual but now they have moved offline.

Mr Modi is addressing three rallies on Friday and Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi is also holding campaign events.

A senior journalist in the state told the BBC that nobody “was really talking about coronavirus as a campaign issue”.

“It seems like the virus has disappeared from the state. People have become complacent and politicians are not doing enough to warn people,” he said.

The state government

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Trump calls Fauci an ‘idiot,’ says rallies are ‘BOFFO’ while coronavirus rages on

As hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients in Wisconsin and Chicagoans face a second surge of coronavirus cases that could lead to new shutdowns, President Donald Trump is calling medical professionals “idiots.”

As most states across the country face rising coronavirus numbers and hospitalizations, the president effectively says he’s “tired” of it all.

Of course he didn’t use the first person. He always puts his own gripes in the mouths of others, pulling a page from the narcissist’s playbook, as he can’t imagine anyone thinking differently than he does.

In a call with his campaign staff Monday, Trump said: “People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies. People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”

Ah, “people.” Those “people” who just say “whatever” about a deadly virus that has claimed more than 220,000 American lives and left millions with, at best, a preexisting condition and at worse lingering health issues.

Those “people” who say “leave us alone” without acknowledging their own health affects everyone they’re around, young and old, weak and strong, friend and stranger.

Those people are certainly out there. They’re the ones showing up maskless at Trump rallies and acting like COVID-19 is much ado about nothing while sneering at “people” like me and saying, “Get out of your mama’s basement, coward.” (Fun fact: Thanks to the virus, I, like millions of Americans, haven’t been able to see my mama all year, much less hang out in her basement. And when it comes to a pandemic, I am very much a coward. And proud of it.)

But hey, Trump and the people he’s using to channel his own childish, “I DON’T WANNA DEAL WITH THIS MEAN PANDEMIC ANYMORE!” attitude are tired of it all.

Well, let me find someone to play a sad trombone sound for them, one that can be heard from coast to coast. Because guess what? I’m tired of it too.

I don’t think there are any Americans who aren’t tired of COVID-19 and the pandemic that has thrown our lives wildly out of whack.

But rather than whining about it, denying science and wasting time deriding those who share best practices to slow the spread, many in this country are wearing masks, avoiding crowded gatherings and bending over backward to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.

But it’s not enough. There are too many adopting the president’s “I’m SO over this” attitude.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to people like Melissa Resch, a registered nurse who works in a coronavirus medical unit in Wisconsin. She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week that she’s seeing patients ranging in ages from their 20s to their 90s.

“This doesn’t discriminate against age,” Resch told the newspaper.

She asked people to stay home, social distance and wear masks so she can avoid having to help families FaceTime with a loved one “as they take their

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Doctors Rail Against Trump’s Michigan, Wisconsin Rallies Amid Surging COVID Cases

Doctors in Michigan and Wisconsin are encouraging President Donald Trump to cancel campaign rallies planned for Saturday afternoon, as coronavirus cases are rising in both states.



a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Attendees wait to hear President Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally on October 16, 2020 in Macon, Georgia. President Trump continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with 18 days until election day.


© Elijah Nouvelage/Getty
Attendees wait to hear President Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally on October 16, 2020 in Macon, Georgia. President Trump continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with 18 days until election day.

Michigan doctors Rob Davidson and Susan Fabrick held a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon, the day before Trump is expected to arrive at FlyBy Air near the airport in Muskegon County, located just northwest of Grand Rapids, the Detroit Free Press reported. The president is failing to listen to health officials’ advice, the doctors said.

“As physicians, we are really concerned about the inaccurate misinformation that President Trump repeats day after day, multiple times a day,” said Fabrick, a family medicine doctor who has practiced in Muskegon for 26 years. “No matter what he claims, COVID-19 is still with us and it is still killing people.”

On October 15, Michigan reported a record number of coronavirus cases statewide since the crisis began earlier this year, with 2,517 new cases, according to the New York Times’ database.

In Muskegon County, which has a population of just under 175,000, more than 1,700 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase, according to the county’s public health department.

“Instead of coming to Muskegon to continue spreading misinformation and packing people close together with COVID-19 cases going up, President Trump should cancel his campaign event and focus on fighting the pandemic with science and evidence,” said Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, which hosted the press conference. “As a physician, I’m concerned that his campaign events endanger public health. They have also become platforms for spreading medically inaccurate information that puts people’s lives at risk.”

‘Get Out There’: Trump Removes Face Mask For Photo Op As He Returns To White House

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Trump’s campaign rallies typically attract thousands, even amid a global pandemic. While most of his events this year have been held in large outdoor venues, photographs show many of Trump’s supporters without face coverings and with little regard to social distancing—two measures strongly encouraged by health officials.

His campaign doesn’t require that face coverings be worn at rallies, but it does provide masks and encourages their use, Politico reported. Temperature checks and hand sanitizer are also provided.

“We take strong precautions for campaign events,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director, said in a statement to Politico.

The president will head to the neighboring state of Wisconsin later Saturday, where he plans to host a rally in Janesville, located about 75 miles west of Milwaukee. City leaders held a virtual press conference Saturday morning, criticizing Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and his decision to hold a large event where cases are also surging, local station WMTV reported.

“These are super spreader events and health care

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