Nine people who attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Minnesota last month have tested positive for the coronavirus, and one remains in intensive care, state health officials reported Friday.
All nine were at the Sept. 18 rally in Bemidji, weeks before Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. But few people attending the rally wore face masks or followed social distancing guidelines, which are recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two of the nine were hospitalized, reported The Duluth News Tribune.
Minnesota Health Department officials can’t say definitively that all nine contracted COVID-19 at the rally, but they have confirmed they all attended the event, spokesperson Doug Schultz told Politico. The stricken Trump supporters were at the event at a time “when they were likely to have been exposed to the virus that made them ill (14 days prior to illness onset),” Schultz wrote in an email.
Trump reported that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus early Oct. 1 after his close aide Hope Hicks tested positive last Thursday morning. Trump attended a fundraiser at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, hours before his positive test result was reported. He also attended a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, the previous day, when Hicks was reportedly experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Three Republican Minnesota congressmen traveled with Trump on Air Force One from Washington to Duluth for the rally and back. When they headed back to their state Oct. 2, they skirted regulations and hopped aboard a commercial flight despite concerns they may have been exposed to COVID-19 through Trump and his staff.
“It was only a matter of time until the dangerous, mask-less campaign events staged by Donald Trump and Minnesota Republicans landed Minnesotans in the hospital,” Ken Martin, chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said in a statement.
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said that tying the Bemidji cases to the rally is “a stretch,” adding: “We wish them all speedy recoveries.”
Trump lost Minnesota in 2016. Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has been leading by several percentage points in the latest polls for November’s election.
News of the Minnesota illnesses comes after more than 35 COVID-19 cases may have been triggered by a Sept. 26 event at the White House Rose Garden when Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Almost no one wore masks or followed social distance guidelines at the nomination event. Trump tested positive for the coronavirus just days later.
Trump reportedly plans to speak to a crowd on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday from a balcony just a week after he was airlifted to Walter Reed hospital for treatment of COVID-19. He is also planning a “very BIG” campaign rally on Monday in Sanford, Florida.
Minnesota’s current surge in COVID-19 cases continues to climb. The state tallied 1,401 more cases and 14 more deaths on Friday.
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