For the second time in less than a week, President Donald Trump will travel to a state battling a surge in COVID-19 cases and speak to supporters at a large interior gathering opposed by local officials and health experts. where the coronavirus safety protocols cannot be followed. .
Trump will lead a student convention for Trump on Tuesday, a pro-Trump group that is not an official part of the Trump campaign, in Phoenix, Arizona, after making several stops in Yuma, Arizona, related to border security and the wall. Mexico-United States border. .
Organizers expect approximately 3,000 conservative activists to attend the event at a megachurch in Phoenix. Attendees will be asked, but not required, to wear masks.
“We are asking people to be responsible citizens, so while we will not approach people in banks if they are not using [masks], we will ask people to respect local ordinances and rules, “Andrew Kolvet, spokesman for the Students for Trump convention, told ABC News.
Other common security practices, including social distancing and a limit on the number of people allowed in the confined space, will be a “game time decision,” Kolvet said.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, voiced opposition to the event and said it was not sanctioned by the city. She also noted that it does not agree with the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control that restrict large meetings.
“While I don’t think an event of this magnitude can be safely held, particularly as Arizona sees an increase in COVID cases, the president decided to continue this rally,” he said in a statement.
The Phoenix city council voted Friday to order facial masks in public, as rates of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have increased in the state since it reopened.
Gallego suggested that the city enforce the new rule and urged Trump to wear a mask himself.
“Everyone who attends tomorrow’s event, particularly any elected official, should set an example for residents wearing a mask. This includes the president,” he said, adding that the church that organized the event told the city that plans to deliver masks and take the temperature of the attendees.
The news of Trump’s stop at the Arizona interior meeting comes just days after his controversial campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma, another coronavirus hotspot, against the wishes of local health officials.
Only 6,200 people attended the event at the 19,000-seat stadium, a poor sample of what was heralded as a campaign restart for the president.
At least eight advanced Trump employees have tested positive for the coronavirus in connection with the event.
Joe Gerald, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Arizona, told ABC News that the Students for Trump meeting “could lead to an overcast event” in Phoenix.
“I think the events taking place in Oklahoma and what’s going on here in Arizona are very similar,” he said. “You are gathering large numbers of people in a closed interior space.”
Dream City Church, the Phoenix megachurch that rented its auditorium for the meeting, said in a statement that it installed a new air purification system to clean the air in the facility.
In a Facebook post, two men identified as the pastor and a senior Dream City Church official suggested that no one should worry about attending his church despite urgent requests from the nation’s top health officials that people should avoid crowds and stay 6 feet away from people outside your home.
“We have installed these units and it kills 99.9% of COVID in 10 minutes,” said Brendon Zastrow, whose Twitter profile says he is the church’s director of operations. “COVID cannot live in that environment.”
“So when you walk into our auditorium, 99% of COVID is gone,” added Pastor Luke Barnett in a video that has since been removed.
The Arizona company that makes the product, Clean Air Exp, suggested Monday in a phone call with an ABC producer that the church may have overstated what its air purifier can do. Owner Tim Bender said he would soon provide a full statement.
The company’s website said that its product “removes 99.9% of the coronavirus from the air in less than 10 minutes,” but that its laboratory analysis was performed on a “substitute” for the coronavirus, meaning that it was not specifically tested. at COVID-19. The website did not claim that COVID could never survive any environment.
In a separate statement on its website, the church also said it agreed to rent its facilities to Turning Point Action, the conservative group that runs the event and Arizona’s largest convention, before learning that Trump would be speaking at the event.
“The rental of the Dream City facility does not constitute endorsement of the opinions of its tenants,” the church said in a statement. “Leasing each facility is a means of generating funds so that Dream City can continue to carry out its vision of outreach: reaching the wounded and needy of Jesus Christ in the community.”
Rep. Rubén Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona, who represents much of Phoenix in Congress, said he is concerned that conference attendees who gather for Trump’s comments in Phoenix may catch COVID-19 and spread it throughout the country when they leave.
“When the president comes in and acts as if there is no public health crisis, it is more difficult for us local leaders to stop the real crisis,” he said.
This report appeared in the Tuesday, June 23, 2020 episode of “Start Here,” the daily ABC news podcast.
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