PEORIA, Ariz. — It’s a familiar sight at President Donald Trump’s rallies: few face masks, a limited attempt at social distancing — and no regard for health guidelines.
As the coronavirus rages through the White House, sending Trump to the hospital last week and infecting nearly 30 people directly connected to him, the Trump re-election campaign shows no signs of acknowledging the reality of the deadly virus.
At a campaign rally in a Phoenix suburb Thursday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to a crowd of a few hundred mostly maskless supporters in an outdoor lot at TYR Tactical, a company that manufactures body armor equipment for police SWAT teams.
Supporters crowded together as they made their way through a gated entrance and packed into tight lines as they went through security. While folding chairs appeared to have been set up with some attempt to follow social distancing, those efforts were quickly abandoned as people flooded in, dragging chairs to better position themselves to see the vice president. Others huddled together in the shade, seeking respite from the sun.
Hand sanitizer and face masks were provided, but their use was not enforced.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., a close ally of the president, made her way through the crowd at the end of the event, shaking hands and chatting with supporters without wearing a face mask.
“He’s going to be back on the road and in the fight before you know it,” Pence promised the crowd, thanking them for their “outpouring of concern” for Trump’s health.
As Trump continues to run behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden in national and key battleground state polls, some Republicans had hoped that Trump would use his coronavirus diagnosis as an opportunity to strike a different tone on the pandemic that has claimed more than 210,000 American lives and left millions more sick or unemployed.
Instead, the campaign is plowing ahead with its strategy to project normalcy.
The Trump campaign held numerous events on Thursday, deploying their top surrogates around the country as part of their “Operation MAGA” plan to keep supporters energized as Trump recovers from the virus.
Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle held an indoor campaign event in Panama City Beach, Florida. Eric Trump rallied supporters in Monroe, North Carolina, posting pictures of himself interacting with voters. Many attendees did not wear face masks and there appeared to be no social distancing.
“We take strong precautions for campaign events. Every attendee has their temperature checked, masks are provided and their use is encouraged, and there is plenty of hand sanitizer,” said Courtney Parella, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, when asked about what safety measures were being taken in light of the recent Covid-19 outbreak among White House and campaign aides.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines advise against mass gatherings, especially indoors.
On Thursday, Trump said he would not participate in the next debate on Oct. 15 after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced it would be virtual