Wisconsin is facing one of the worst coronavirus situations in the country, but it was not an issue President Donald Trump devoted time to during his visit to the state just days before it. helps to decide his political fate.
Instead, he was delighted at the size of the crowd at his rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and referred to a recent ABC News / Washington Post poll that showed him behind Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. 17 points in the state, much worse than other polls. which show a narrower race.
Before the event ended, he attacked Biden for talking so much about COVID-19 and reiterating his own misleading claims about the pandemic, widely stating that “the reason we have so many cases is because we are testing” and mistakenly claiming that Wisconsin is “already locked up.” “
“Hey Governor, you need to open up your state here,” Trump told the crowd to applause. “You have to open it.”
Unlike Trump’s “opening” calls on Friday, the state has been far from locked up for months. A GOP-led legal challenge led the state Supreme Court to overturn the state’s home security order in May.
The coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the key swing state of the Midwest, and this month cases and deaths have increased. Cases hit a new high in one day of 5,262 on Tuesday, according to state health data, just days before Trump and Biden visited the state on Friday.
“Right now, Wisconsin is in its darkest days of the pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, quality manager at the University of Wisconsin, medical officer of health and emergency medicine , who described the state as “in the eyes of the hurricane that is COVID-19.” “
In the closing days of the presidential campaign, polls showed a tense race between Biden and Trump in the state the president carried in 2016 and will likely have to win again for a second term. But the coronavirus looms large in a region that has been a major site of political battles over coronavirus restrictions throughout the pandemic between Republicans in the state and the Democratic governor.
Locally in the Green Bay area, Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Bellin Health, Prevea Health and HSHS St. Mary’s and St. Vincent Hospitals welcomed the President’s rally with a joint statement clearly expressing their concerns as the pandemic ravaged the country. region.
“It’s more important than ever to avoid large crowds, especially here in Green Bay, Wisconsin where we are seeing the fastest spread of COVID-19 in the United States,” health systems have warned. . “Any type of large gathering could have additional negative effects on a community that is already struggling with the spread of the community.
Biden appeared in Wisconsin hours after Trump for an event at a hangar at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. The speech by the former vice president, who criticized Trump for his much-criticized approach to the pandemic, follows his visits to Iowa and Minnesota earlier today. Biden’s events were also much smaller than those of the president, as the campaign makes a point of following public health precautions, for which Trump has regularly mocked his opponent.
The former vice president wore a mask as he spoke in Milwaukee, where the small audience could be seen seated in chairs inside circles, socially distant from each other.
“This week, Wisconsin, like other states, set a new record for daily cases. Hospitals are running out of beds, they just have to open a field hospital, ”Biden said. “This is what we are up against.”
A spokesperson for the Milwaukee County Executive Office clarified in a statement that the Biden event would be “a small private meeting,” where “organizers are aware that Wisconsin is a COVID-19 hotspot and have indicated that the meeting will have a small number of guests and staff well within the Milwaukee city limit for gatherings of this type.
And an aide to Biden said the campaign “was taking extra precautions with the vice president’s trip to Wisconsin given the public health situation.”
At a press briefing Friday morning, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm warned that “hospitals in every region of our state are experiencing staffing constraints, while COVID-related hospitalizations 19 continue to increase. ” Earlier this month, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced that a field hospital located at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds would be put into operation as the state’s coronavirus fight worsened.
Courtney Parella, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said in a statement to the Daily Beast that “we take strong precautions for our campaign events,” stressing that temperature checks and masks are given to attendees , even if the use of masks is irregular. and social distancing is often not practiced during campaign events, including in Wisconsin.
And as Trump addressed the crowd in Wisconsin on Friday, even as some in the hotspot state showed clear alarm over the large-scale event, the president once again defied assessments of experts to declare the end of the virus, claiming without merit that “with or without the vaccine, we are rounding off.
“I just want a normal life,” Trump said shortly after.
Any event that brings together a large number of people who then gather tightly and largely avoids wearing masks can be a super-spreader event, Pothof said, comparing it to “like throwing gasoline on the fire along with our health workers are exhausted. They gave it their all and our hospitals are on the verge of bankruptcy.
“These large gatherings, it just seems unfathomable that in a country like the United States where we have a public health crisis, where hospitals are at full capacity, where there is a field hospital open in the state, that any group consider having an event that would bring people together in large numbers, neither spaced nor masked, ”Pothof told the Daily Beast.
In the months following the dismantling of the home security order by the state Supreme Court, Evers implemented a statewide mask order and pushed further restrictions on statewide, but has always faced vocal dissent from Republicans as others in the state have challenged these efforts in court. .
Trump focused on Wisconsin in October as he returned to the track after being hospitalized with COVID-19, and even before taking the stage on Friday, his campaign announced he would return for a rally in Kenosha to the day before polling day. His stop in Wisconsin on Friday came between visits to the other critical Midwestern states of Michigan and Minnesota.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Trump campaign attempted to hold one of their main pandemic gatherings at the airport last week, but was banned due to concerns arising from such a significant event at the site.
Even as the 2020 election peaks in the state, the realities of the pandemic on the ground are not lost in the final days of the campaign. Malia Jones, associate scientist in health geography for the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been adamant about the state’s coronavirus position, calling it “really dark.”
“It’s horrible,” Jones told the Daily Beast. “It is certainly the worst we have seen from the pandemic so far.”
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