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New CAP Analysis Shows Trump Rallies Are Leaving an Alarming Trail of COVID-19 Community Spread

WASHINGTON - A new analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that about half of the president’s 22 rallies held between June and September were followed by a county-level increase in COVID-19 cases, suggesting the events may have led to community spread. The analysis also finds that counties that had a lower COVID-19 incidence—a measure of new cases per capita—prior to the rally were more likely to have a visible increase in cases after the rally, perhaps because any uptick in cases was more likely to stand out against the pre-event level.

“By virtually any standard, Trump’s rallies ignore every public health recommendation to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. They involve thousands of people, packed closely together, with few people wearing masks and no attempts at social distancing. It’s unbelievable that the president has continued to hold these events, which present a risk to public health, despite contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized himself,” said Thomas Waldrop, policy analyst at CAP and co-author of the report.

“Eight months into the pandemic, we know the factors that can stop the spread of the coronavirus. The president and his team have flouted the rules at every turn,” said Emily Gee, health economist at CAP and coauthor of the analysis. “These rallies offer a boost to the president’s ego but risk leaving behind a trail of sickness and increased strain on local public health departments and medical systems.”

To examine whether Trump’s rallies were associated with heightened cases, the authors used county-level data on COVID-19 positive cases from The New York Times. For each of the 22 rallies Trump held between June and September, the authors looked at a chart of daily new cases and the seven-day moving average of new cases during the 21 days before and after the rally. In 11 instances, there was a post-event increase above the pre-event trend—with an increase defined as either new case counts rising up following a pre-event decrease or plateau or new case counts accelerating above a steady, pre-event increase.

While the authors note that multiple factors prevent a definitive, causal connection, their analysis found unambiguous increases after rallies in the following cities:

  • Mankato, Minnesota
  • Bemidji, Minnesota
  • Henderson, Nevada
  • Londonderry, New Hampshire
  • Swanton, Ohio
  • Middletown, Pennsylvania
  • Old Forge, Pennsylvania; and
  • Newport News, Virginia

The increase in the county case count trend was more subtle after rallies in Vandalia, Ohio; Latrobe, Pennsylvania; and Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  The authors also found that a post-event increase was more common in counties that started with lower levels of COVID-19.

Click here to read “Trump Rallies Are Often Followed by Increases in Local COVID-19 Cases” by Thomas Waldrop and Emily Gee

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at apreiss@americanprogress.org.

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The Center for American Progress is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. We combine bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate, expose the hollowness of conservative governing philosophy, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter.

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