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Politics Doctors Rail Against Trump's Michigan, Wisconsin Rallies Amid Surging COVID Cases

23:05  17 october  2020
23:05  17 october  2020 Source:   newsweek.com

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Doctors in Michigan and Wisconsin are encouraging President Donald Trump to cancel campaign rallies planned for Saturday afternoon, as coronavirus cases are rising in both states.

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Michigan doctors Rob Davidson and Susan Fabrick held a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon, the day before Trump is expected to arrive at FlyBy Air near the airport in Muskegon County, located just northwest of Grand Rapids, the Detroit Free Press reported. The president is failing to listen to health officials' advice, the doctors said.

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"As physicians, we are really concerned about the inaccurate misinformation that President Trump repeats day after day, multiple times a day," said Fabrick, a family medicine doctor who has practiced in Muskegon for 26 years. "No matter what he claims, COVID-19 is still with us and it is still killing people."

On October 15, Michigan reported a record number of coronavirus cases statewide since the crisis began earlier this year, with 2,517 new cases, according to the New York Times' database.

In Muskegon County, which has a population of just under 175,000, more than 1,700 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase, according to the county's public health department.

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"Instead of coming to Muskegon to continue spreading misinformation and packing people close together with COVID-19 cases going up, President Trump should cancel his campaign event and focus on fighting the pandemic with science and evidence," said Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, which hosted the press conference. "As a physician, I'm concerned that his campaign events endanger public health. They have also become platforms for spreading medically inaccurate information that puts people's lives at risk."

Trump's campaign rallies typically attract thousands, even amid a global pandemic. While most of his events this year have been held in large outdoor venues, photographs show many of Trump's supporters without face coverings and with little regard to social distancing—two measures strongly encouraged by health officials.

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His campaign doesn't require that face coverings be worn at rallies, but it does provide masks and encourages their use, Politico reported. Temperature checks and hand sanitizer are also provided.

"We take strong precautions for campaign events," Tim Murtaugh, communications director, said in a statement to Politico.

The president will head to the neighboring state of Wisconsin later Saturday, where he plans to host a rally in Janesville, located about 75 miles west of Milwaukee. City leaders held a virtual press conference Saturday morning, criticizing Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic and his decision to hold a large event where cases are also surging, local station WMTV reported.

"These are super spreader events and health care experts in Wisconsin and at the CDC have pleaded with President Trump to put an end to this reckless behavior," said Janesville City Council member Susan Johnson.

Doctors in the state are concerned the rally, which is set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, will turn in to a super spreader event, and urged Trump to cancel, WKOW-TV reported.

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"We're here to call on President Trump to cancel his campaign rally on Saturday," said Dr. Rob Freedland with the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

Freedland provided two main reasons for his request: "One, President Trump's rallies pack people close together. Two, his rallies give him a bullhorn to spread misinformation that people hear and act upon with dangerous consequences."

Trump himself announced he tested positive for coronavirus and was hospitalized on October 2, but has since returned to in-person campaign events after testing negative multiple times. One of his supporters told WKOW-TV that the president's diagnosis helped them to take the virus more seriously.

"I have definitely seen an increase in people wearing masks. I think people might have had a little bit of mask fatigue and I think it helped to remind people that we need to wash our hands, we need to socially distance, it's not just also about the masks," said Michele Scherdin, a supporter at a Trump Victory event on Friday.

Cases in Wisconsin have reached record numbers this month, according to a tracker from The New York Times. On October 16, the state reported 4,172 new COVID-19 infections—its highest number since the pandemic began.

The state has since set up a field hospital in anticipation of record hospitalization numbers. Coronavirus patients who are less sick but still require hospital care will be treated at the alternative facility, which was built at the State Fair Park in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

In Rock County, home to Janesville, health officials have reported 4,042 cumulative COVID-19 cases, according to the Times. More recent data is unavailable, as the state's reporting system underwent routine maintenance over the weekend.

Newsweek contacted the Trump campaign for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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