Four researchers at Stanford University’s Department of Economics joined forces to study whether President Donald Trump’s rallies led to a surge in COVID-19 infections. Their answer? An unequivocal yes. According to their research, 18 rallies held between June 20 and September 22 led to more than 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The researchers also concluded that the rallies “likely led” to more than 700 deaths, although not necessarily among those who attended the events.
In order to carry out the study, researchers analyzed data from 18 counties where Trump held rallies, and compared it to similar counties where the rallies did not take place. Three of the rallies took place indoors, while the rest were held outdoors. The rallies “increased subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 by more than 250 per 100,000 residents,” the researchers write. Even though they don’t know whether all the COVID-19 deaths were among those who attended the rally, the researchers conclude that “the communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death.”
This is not the first time there’s an effort to examine whether Trump’s rallies led to a surge in infections. CNN, for example, recently carried out an analysis of data from 17 rallies that took place between August 17 and September 26. It concluded that 14 of the 17 counties saw increased rate of new COVID-19 cases a month after they hosted the president. Of the 14 that saw increases, six were already seeing increased rates of infection but at the end of the day in 10 counties “the new rates of infection were growing faster than the overall rate for the state.”
Health authorities had already been expressing concern about the potential for Trump rallies to become superspreader events. Anthony Fauci, for example, said earlier this month that the decision to hold large rallies was “asking for trouble.” The Gaston County Health and Human Services Department issued a statement Thursday warning that two people who attended Trump’s October 21 rally in Gastonia, North Carolina had tested positive for the coronavirus. The health authority was sure to note that there was not enough evidence to say definitively whether the attendees had contracted COVID-19 at the rally. During the rally, Trump said that the pandemic was “rounding the corner.”