The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump is still bent on endangering Americans

Mostly maskless people line up three hours before President Trump's scheduled appearance at a campaign rally in Minden, Nev., on Saturday. (Scott Sonner/AP)

President Trump cannot help himself. As he is battling to play down his own admission that he played down the covid-19 threat to avoid “panic,” he seems determined to demonstrate how little he cares for the safety and lives of fellow Americans.

The Reno Gazette Journal reported on Trump’s weekend rally in Nevada: “President Donald Trump staged a rally in Minden on Saturday after officials rebuffed similar airport rallies in Reno and Las Vegas, citing Nevada’s months-long ban on gatherings of more than 50 people during the coronavirus pandemic.” Deprived of the chance to endanger voters in the state’s two major cities, he went prowling elsewhere for supporters willing to risk their own health. “Trump — speaking to a crowd of at least 5,000 largely maskless supporters densely packed on the Tarmac at Minden-Tahoe Airport on Saturday — repeated unsupported claims that Nevada’s governor sought to scuttle an earlier planned campaign rally in Reno.” (Trump also made a number of alarming, incoherent claims such as “they” — Democrats? — “want to punish you for going to church while agitators and anarchists try to burn your churches down.” He’s truly a panic-inducer at heart.)

The state Democratic Party chair, William McCurdy II, rapped Trump’s reckless conduct, saying, “Trump is endangering Nevadans and flying in the face of his own White House recommendations by holding rallies this weekend. These emergency directives were put in place because under Trump’s watch, the outbreak of coronavirus got out of control. Over 190,000 Americans are dead, including nearly 1,500 Nevadans. But still, Trump continues to care more about boosting his own ego through superspreader rallies than about the health and safety of Nevadans.” That is a powerful message that cannot be repeated enough.

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

Even as the number of U.S. coronavirus cases passes 3 million, President Trump has repeatedly played down covid-19’s toll on the country. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jonathan Newton / Washington Post/The Washington Post)

Appearing on ABC News’ “This Week,” Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders told host George Stephanopoulos that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), are “actively campaigning,” but the difference with Trump’s campaigning is “we’re doing it so safely.” In other words, Biden is not risking superspreader rallies. “We are letting the science lead us,” Sanders said. “We are listening to the experts. You know, safety is of the utmost importance to our campaign — the safety of the voters, the safety of our campaign staff.” With dry understatement, she excoriated Trump’s conduct. “It’s not safe and it’s not modeling good behavior.”

Even more irresponsibly, Trump held an indoor event on Sunday in Nevada. The Post reported, “According to CNN, the city of Henderson has warned Xtreme Manufacturing, the site of Sunday’s rally, that the planned event is in violation of state regulations prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people.” Rules — and health precautions — are for others.

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Trump should come under extreme pressure to stop these events. This is precisely the mind-set he revealed on the calls with Bob Woodward that sent shock waves through the race in the past week. Trump will do whatever he perceives is in his own personal and political interest even if it means the possibility of endangering lives. He did not care enough about American lives early in the pandemic, so he delivered a false message that may have dissuaded many people from taking protective measures. When the virus began to spread, he again played down the health risks and goaded Republican governors to reopen their states, thereby extending the first wave of outbreaks well into the summer. And now with the U.S. death toll approaching 200,000 and criticism raining down on him, he still holds rallies that put Americans in harm’s way.

As in the aftermath of the Tulsa rally in June, we can expect a trail of infections following Trump rallies like the one in Nevada. In short, even now Trump’s reckless disregard for human life continues. That — just as much as the Woodward tapes — should shock the conscience of every decent American.

UPDATE, 3:20 p.m.: In a written response to my question about President Trump’s mass events, Biden spokesman Mike Gwin said, “Donald Trump couldn’t have been any clearer: the only person’s health and well-being he cares about is his own." Trump may be protected, but others are not. “Unlike Trump, who enjoys a gilded bubble at the White House and his resorts, the American people don’t have access to the regular testing that Trump enjoys, they don’t have the necessary protective equipment that helps keep Trump safe, and they don’t have an inherited fortune to fall back on when they lose their job,” Gwin said. "At every step of this pandemic, Trump’s top concern has been himself — not our country — and we’re all paying the price as a result, with almost 200,000 dead and our economy in shambles.”

Read more:

Ruth Marcus: Trump’s problem in Tulsa wasn’t just empty seats. It was empty rhetoric.

Paul Waldman: Why Trump’s rally in Tulsa will be remembered by history

Greg Sargent: Trump’s sparse rally crowd enraged him. His advisers just revealed why.

The Post’s View: Trump isn’t calling for unity. He’s stoking rage.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s campaign has no clue how to solve this problem

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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