Our view: Mak­ing COVID-19 worse

Trump’s in­door ral­lies put lives at risk

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS | OPINION -

Sports are play­ing to empty sta­di­ums. The­aters are dark. Restau­rants are mak­ing do with take-out and out­door din­ing. And schools are ty­ing them­selves in knots over how — and if — they can have in-per­son in­struc­tion.

But one per­son thinks that he is so im­por­tant that he can flout all of the pre­cau­tions that gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses and so­ci­ety as a whole have im­ple­mented to halt the spread of COVID-19. That per­son would be none other than Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who kicked off this week with a large in­door rally in Ne­vada fea­tur­ing peo­ple sit­ting side-by-side and gen­er­ally un­adorned by masks.

The rally de­fied a state or­der bar­ring gath­er­ings of more than 50 peo­ple and even vi­o­lated the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s own guide­lines. It showed how lit­tle con­cern Trump has for pub­lic safety, and lo­cal of­fi­cials im­posed a $3,000 fine on the venue’s owner.

The rally fits with the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign of mag­i­cal think­ing and de­nial, one where he tries to wave a wand and de­clare the pan­demic is over, or that it was overblown to be­gin with (notwith­stand­ing his ad­mis­sion of the op­po­site to Bob Wood­ward). Trump not only thumbed his nose at states for try­ing to pro­tect their cit­i­zens, he de­manded that they re­open.

But the rally might best be seen as an il­lus­tra­tion of Trump’s need for pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment. His last in­door rally, ear­lier this sum­mer in Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, was a PR dis­as­ter as he took heat both for en­dan­ger­ing pub­lic safety and for promis­ing a crowd far larger than ac­tu­ally showed up.

State of­fi­cials later blamed the rally for a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Tulsa area. One prom­i­nent per­son who at­tended the rally, for­mer GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Her­man Cain, was hos­pi­tal­ized less than two weeks later and died on July 30.

And, de­spite warn­ings that in­door venues are far more likely to pro­duce su­per­spread­ing events than out­door sites, Trump just had to do it again. So need­ful is he of ador­ing crowds that he once again put peo­ple’s lives at risk.

Trump is en­dan­ger­ing the pub­lic for no good rea­son. School of­fi­cials at least have some ex­pla­na­tion for putting peo­ple at risk. On­line ed­u­ca­tion is a poor sub­sti­tute for in-per­son classes, es­pe­cially with young chil­dren.

All across Amer­ica, even in Trump­sup­port­ing ar­eas, peo­ple gen­er­ally are wear­ing masks at gro­cery stores and other in­door pub­lic places. Sports leagues, cin­ema chains and live theater venues are sac­ri­fic­ing for­tunes in box of­fice rev­enue.

But not Trump. He puts peo­ple’s health at risk be­cause he can get away with it. And be­cause he wants to.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/ AFP VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Peo­ple cheer as Trump ar­rives for an in­door rally.

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