Donald Trump held a rally Tuesday night at Omaha, Nebraska’s Eppley Airfield that attracted somewhere between 6,000 people (the Omaha World-Herald’s estimate) and 29,000 people (Trump’s personal estimate, LOL). When the event ended at 9 p.m., the temperature was just above 30 degrees. Because of traffic and/or a shortage of buses, hundreds of attendees were stranded at the airport, some until 12:40 a.m., waiting to be shuttled back to their cars.
A Twitter account that follows Omaha emergency-services radio traffic conveyed chatter indicating that several people at the airport had to be treated for exposure to the cold; authorities say six or seven attendees were taken to the hospital, though not all those cases were necessarily related to the weather. Regardless of temperature issues, rallygoers were also at risk of contracting the coronavirus: Eastern Nebraska is home to some of the hottest COVID hot spots in the country, and photos from the event show that the crowd, which included many people who were not wearing masks, was packed tightly together.
Such levels of risk are pervasive at almost all of the president’s rallies. An article published last week by USA Today noted that countywide rates of coronavirus infection increased, by varying amounts, after five recent Trump 2020 events in the Midwest. Other rallies, while they may not be correlated with subsequent accelerations of viral spread, have been held in areas of Iowa, Wisconsin, and elsewhere that had—and still have—some of the worst caseloads and hospitalization counts in the country.
Events in these areas will continue to be held by the president and his surrogates at a furious rate until the election. Pressed by a CNN anchor on Wednesday about Mike Pence scheduling a rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin, even as hospital beds are running short there, Trump 2020 spokesman Hogan Gidley defended the campaign by arguing that “the vice president has the best doctors in the world around him,” which rather tellingly missed the point of the question. Gidley also declared that “the American people have the right under the First Amendment to peaceably assemble.” So: The person who matters will be fine, and the rest of you can technically do whatever you want. Therefore, it’s not a problem!
Well, it’s not a problem for the Trump campaign staff. The downside for voters is that, like former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain—who attended a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20; tested positive for COVID-19 nine days later; and permanently ceased making America great on July 30—they could die. Marathon County, Wisconsin, currently has a new daily case rate 17 times as high as New York City’s; on Monday, 11 Marathon County coronavirus patients were hospitalized, and one death was reported. One way or another, these rallies could be the last time Trump fans get to see him.
Support Slate’s politics coverage
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Join Slate Plus to support our work. You’ll get unlimited articles and a suite of great benefits.