Arizona’s health department announced on Monday that 1,992 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, a new record. It’s one of a handful of worrying stats coming this week out of the the Grand Canyon State, where the positive test rate is 20.4 percent, more than double the national average of 8.4 percent.
None of this will stop President Trump from speaking to a crowd of 3,000 or so young supporters at a Students for Trump event in Phoenix Tuesday.
Event organizers have said attendees will be encouraged, but not required, to follow an ordinance mandating masks in public. The ordinance, passed Friday by the Phoenix City Council, calls for a $250 fine for those not wearing a mask, but there is a 30-day grace period. Students for Trump spokesperson Andrew Kolvet told ABC News that attendees will be asked “to be responsible citizens,” but organizers “won’t tackle people in the pews if they aren’t” wearing masks.
The organizer’s recommendation comes despite dubious claims of a virus-killing ventilation system from the Dream City Church, where Tuesday’s event will be held. In a video posted online Sunday, two church officials said anyone entering its auditorium could feel safe thanks to a ventilation technology that kills “99 percent of COVID within ten minutes.” The video was removed after the Phoenix New Times reported on it.
Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, has called on everyone attending the event to wear a mask. She singled out President Trump and Arizona governor Doug Ducey, a Republican. “Public health is a group effort, not a partisan issue. It requires the participation of every resident and level of government,” she said.
Gallego has said she doesn’t think it’s responsible to hold the event at all, and former Vice-President Joe Biden agrees. Trump’s “decision to hold a rally in Arizona as the state deals with a severe COVID-19 resurgence is reckless and irresponsible,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday.
The situation in Arizona has become increasingly dire in recent weeks. Numbers released Monday included a host of new record highs in the state, including the number of patients in the ICU, the number of patients on ventilators, and the number of coronavirus-related emergency room visits. As of Sunday, AZCentral.com reported that “82% of current inpatient beds and 84% of ICU beds were in use for COVID-19 and other patients.”
All of this seems to make Arizona an odd destination for an indoor rally, but the Times reports that there’s some political calculation at play here. A surge of young Latino voters may help flip the state blue for the first time in 1996. Trump may not be afraid of spreading a deadly virus, but he is afraid of that.