Bruce Murphy
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Study Finds Trump Rallies Spread Virus

Caused 30,000 COVID-19 cases, may have led to 700 deaths, report estimates. Oshkosh rally a kay part of study.

By - Nov 2nd, 2020 12:47 pm
Donald Trump. Photo from whitehouse.gov.

Donald Trump. Photo from whitehouse.gov.

A study by Stanford University researchers estimates that 18 of Donald Trump’s large-scale campaign rallies held between between June 20 and Sept. 30 resulted in 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and probably led to more than 700 deaths among attendees and others they infected. Among those rallies was one in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The study, released Friday by Stanford economics professor B. Douglas Bernheim and three doctoral students, looked at the trajectory of cases in the counties in which the rallies were held, and found they were highly risky affairs:

“Our analysis strongly supports the warnings and recommendations of public health officials concerning the risk of COVID-19 transmission at large group gatherings, particularly when the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing is low,” the authors said. “The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death.”

“Trump rallies have several distinguishing features that lend themselves to this inquiry,” the study explained. “First, they involved large numbers of attendees… generally in the thousands and sometimes in the tens of thousands…. Second, the set of major Trump campaign events is easily identified. We know whether and when the Trump campaign held a rally in each county. This property allows us to distinguish between “treated” and “untreated” counties. Third, the events occurred on identifiable days. They neither recurred within a given county nor stretched across several days. This feature allows us to evaluate the effects of individual gatherings. Fourth, rallies were not geographically ubiquitous. As a result, we always have a rich set of untreated counties we can use as comparators. Fifth, at least through September 2020, the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing was low… in part because the Trump campaign downplayed the risk of infection… This feature heightens the risk that a rally could become a ‘superspreader event.’”

The rally in Oshkosh was held on August 17. According to a story by Molly Beck and Chris Mueller, it “drew hundreds, if not more than 1,000 attendees — with many wearing face masks, but not all. There was little or no distance between seats. Most of those in attendance were outside… though some were seated in an open airplane hangar.”

The study put considerable emphasis on the Oshkosh rally because Wisconsin provides COVID-19 rates by county and because there was a spike in cases in Winnebago county, where Appleton is located, and Marathon County (where Wausau is located) and is relatively close to Oshkosh. “For Marathon county, the increase in positivity rates started immediately after the rally and continued to climb sharply for several weeks. For Winnebago county, positivity rates roughly doubled over the first four weeks, and then continued to climb sharply,” the study found, while the rest of the state’s counties showed no comparable increase.

Courtney Parella, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary, defended the campaign in a Washington Post story on the study. “Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” she said. She also noted that the campaign took precautions, including “signs at our events instructing attendees to wear their masks.”

The Biden campaign charged that the study provides more evidence that Trump is holding “superspreader” events. “Donald Trump doesn’t even care about the very lives of his strongest supporters,” spokesman Andrew Bates told the newspaper.

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One thought on “Back in the News: Study Finds Trump Rallies Spread Virus”

  1. Thomas Martinsen says:

    My hope is that these Trump rallies will stop. My fear is that he may find a need for more of them, regardless of the outcome of the election.

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