The lack of both face masks and social distancing on display at President Donald Trump's packed campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan Thursday evening deeply alarmed epidemiologists, journalists, and other observers who warned the gathering could turn out to be a Covid-19 "superspreader event" that endangers the lives of the thousands of attendees and those they come in contact with in the near future.
Reporters covering the rally on the ground in Freeland were quick to note the lack of face coverings in the crowd of more than 5,000 Michiganders who assembled in support of Trump's reelection bid just 24 hours after the president admitted he has been downplaying the severity of the virus from the start because he didn't "want people to be frightened."
"This is the crap that makes grown epidemiologists cry," epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, a fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said in response to photos emerging from the campaign event, which was held at a Freeland aircraft hangar. According to state health officials, more than 120,000 Michiganders have contracted Covid-19 and at least 6,900 have died.
Absolutely insane. It’s a superspreader event, Idiocracy come to life. https://t.co/SwUJe4rjUK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 10, 2020
Dear Michigan contact-tracers: https://t.co/u0FOw7iEv9
— Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) September 11, 2020
Several rally attendees expressed complete indifference about the threat the event posed to their own health and that of others, with one Trump supporter telling CNN's Jim Acosta, "There's no Covid."
"It's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America," the man said.
Another supporter of the president told Acosta that he is "not afraid" of the virus because "the good lord takes care of me."
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"If I die, I die," the man added. "We gotta get this country moving."
Veteran Michigan reporter and New York Times correspondent Kathy Gray said Trump campaign officials tracked her down and escorted her out of the event after she tweeted pictures of rallygoers without face coverings. Gray estimated that "maybe 10%" of the thousands of attendees were wearing face coverings.
"I've just been kicked out of the Trump rally," wrote Gray.
Crammed in crowd in the rain for trump rally in michigan. Not many masks pic.twitter.com/5DZ6JBVNK8
— Kathy Gray (@michpoligal) September 10, 2020
At one point during his rambling and lie-filled speech Thursday, Trump bragged about the number of people who turned out for the event without voicing any public health concerns, declaring, "This is not the crowd of a person who comes in second place."
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) warned during the rally that "the lives of everyone in these photos—and of everyone they come into contact with in the next few weeks—are now at risk. But Donald Trump doesn't care, so long as his ego is fed."
As the Detroit Free Press reported, the dangerously crowded Trump rally was "in stark contrast" to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's visit to the state on Wednesday.
"That speech was closed to the public," the Free Press reported, "with media and a handful of attendees asked to remain in chairs spaced throughout a parking lot."