Nine people who have contracted the coronavirus reported attending a Donald Trump rally in Bemidji, Minn., last month, state health officials said Friday, including two who were hospitalized.
One of them remains in an intensive care unit.
Doug Schultz, a Minnesota Department of Health spokesman, said in an email that the department cannot say definitively that the infections were acquired at the rally, due to widespread community transmission of the disease — “only that they attended the rally during the time when they were likely to have been exposed to the virus that made them ill (i.e. 14 days prior to illness onset).”
At least one person was likely infectious while at the rally, the department said.
Two other people who contracted the virus reported attending a protest in response to the rally.
The announcement served to heighten scrutiny of the kind of large, mostly mask-less gatherings that the Trump campaign has continued to hold during the pandemic’s spread.
Yet it is unlikely to stop them. The announcement of cases in Minnesota came as Trump — himself recovering from a Covid-19 infection — prepares to resume rallies. His campaign announced Friday that he will speak in Sanford, Fla., on Monday.
Joe Biden’s campaign and Minnesota Democrats lit into Trump following news of the coronavirus cases.
“As Joe Biden has said, the presidency is the duty to care,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said. “Donald Trump has utterly failed in that duty, lying about this deadly threat to the American people from the very beginning while mismanaging the response — and willingly exposing his own supporters to the pandemic for his own optical gratification.”
Ken Martin, chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said in a prepared statement, “It was only a matter of time until the dangerous, mask-less campaign events staged by Donald Trump and Minnesota Republicans landed Minnesotans in the hospital.”
Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, cast doubt on the possibility that the cases were contracted at the rally. “Tying these cases to an outdoor event that occurred three weeks ago, where hand sanitizer and face masks were supplied, is a stretch,” he said. “We wish them all speedy recoveries.”
Trump has fixated on Minnesota since losing the state narrowly in 2016. A rare offensive opportunity for him on this year’s battleground map, the race in Minnesota had appeared to tighten this summer. But Joe Biden is now in a commanding position there, running ahead by about 9 percentage points.
The Bemidji rally came less than two weeks before Trump’s last rally, Sept. 30 in Duluth, which health officials said they are continuing to monitor.
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