Less than three months ago, President Trump held his first indoor rally since the beginning of the pandemic, in Oklahoma, to the frustration of Tulsa health officials “concerned about [their] ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event.” It turns out they were right to be concerned, as coronavirus cases spiked in the state after the rally. Having learned little from the under-attended event, which was both a political and public-health disaster, Trump on Sunday hosted a campaign rally indoors, this time at a facility owned by Xtreme Manufacturing in Henderson, Nevada, southeast of Las Vegas.
Once again, public-health experts and local politicians decried the president, who has downplayed the threat of a pandemic that’s killed close to 200,000 Americans, for bringing his supporters together in violation of the state’s restriction on gatherings of 50 people or more. National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said late last week that he was “pretty puzzled” and rather disheartened by the president’s choice to hold the rally indoors. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, went a little further in an interview on CNN, comparing the act to “negligent homicide.” Reiner added, “If you have a mass gathering now in the United States in a place like Nevada or just about any other place with hundreds or thousands of people, people will get infected and some of those people will die.”
Governor Steve Sisolak also condemned Trump for the rally, stating that he “is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada.” On Twitter, Sisolak also claimed that state officials reiterated “to the venues the existing restrictions” in place in the state. “This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices, and put their neighbors before themselves,” he added. “It’s also a direct threat to all of the recent progress we’ve made, and could potentially set us back.”
The rally was expected to be held at an airport hangar, as most of Trump’s recent gatherings have been, until the initially chosen venues dropped out because the event violated Nevada’s capacity limit. Ultimately, the forklift company Xtreme was chosen due to its apparent willingness to defy state recommendations and a direct warning from the city of Henderson. As CNN noted, “The owner of Xtreme, Don Ahern, also owns a Las Vegas hotel which was fined after it hosted an August ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ campaign event that exceeded the state limit and also violated some city health restrictions.” And as Brian Stelter reported, major networks including CNN, ABC, and Fox News did not send their crews and correspondents inside the warehouse.
At the rally itself, attendees were given temperature checks before admission and masks were given out, though those in the building were not required to wear face coverings.
Like most Trump rallies, the main attraction was a greatest-hits mix of MAGA themes interrupted by a few new developments. The Green New Deal would cost $100 trillion, “more than we could make in a thousand years,” Trump said. In response to a condemnation of President Obama, the crowd improvised on a classic chant, yelling, “Lock him up.” Tailoring his comments to call out a local pastime, Trump spent several minutes talking about MMA fighters. “Under those beautiful suits are a lot of muscle, a lot of power, lot of genius,” the president said. “For fighting and for other things. Lot of genius under those suits.” The only time he commented directly on the indoor nature of the event was when he dismissed Sisolak’s warnings: “If the governor comes after you, which he shouldn’t be doing, I’ll be with you all the way.”
Like Trump’s last indoor rally, the consequences of the event won’t immediately be known. Similar to the June rally that “likely” resulted in a local COVID-19 uptick, according to the Tulsa City-County Health Department director, it’s possible that the Nevada event will result in an increase in cases, considering that the state’s positive testing rate currently sits at 8.51 percent, well above the World Health Organization’s recommendations for reopening. According to Georgia Tech’s COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool, the likelihood that at least one attendee at a 100-person gathering in Clark County, Nevada, would have the coronavirus is 92 percent. His Oklahoma indoor rally — which was considered poorly attended — had an audience of around 6,200 people.