Oct 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Study: Trump campaign rallies likely led to over 700 COVID-related deaths

Supporters gather before President Donald Trump arrives for a rally at the Bemidji Regional Airport on September 18, 2020 in Bemidji, Minnesota.
Supporters gather before President Trump arrives for a rally at the Bemidji Regional Airport on Sept. 18 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Eighteen Trump campaign rallies "ultimately resulted" in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed COVID-19 cases and "likely led to more than 700 deaths," researchers at Stanford University concluded in a study published Friday.

Why it matters: The Trump campaign has come under repeated fire for being lax about mask requirements and refusing to adhere to social distancing and other local guidelines at its events, which sometimes draw thousands of people.

  • Earlier this month, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN the Trump campaign "is asking for trouble" by continuing to hold large in-person events.

What they found: The study focused on 18 rallies between June 20 and Sept. 22. in cities across the U.S., including Tulsa, Phoenix, Bemidji, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Fayetteville. Three of the rallies were held indoors.

  • "Our method is based on a collection of regression models, one for each event, that capture the relationships between post-event outcomes and pre-event characteristics, including demographics and the trajectory of COVID-19 cases, in similar counties," the researchers said.
  • "For the vast majority of these variants, our estimate of the average treatment effect across the eighteen events implies that they increased subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 by more than 250 per 100,000 residents," they found.
  • "Our results suggest that the rallies resulted in more than 30,000 incremental cases and likely led to more than 700 deaths," they concluded, noting the 700 deaths were not necessarily among rally attendees.
  • "Our analysis strongly supports the warnings and recommendations of public health officials concerning the risk of COVID-19 transmission at large group gatherings, particularly when the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing is low," the researchers said.
  • Of note: The study has not been peer reviewed yet.

What they're saying:

  • “Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the President of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events, requiring every attendee to have their temperature checked, providing masks they’re instructed to wear, and ensuring access to plenty of hand sanitizer," Country Parella, Trump's deputy national press secretary, said in a statement. "We also have signs at our events instructing attendees to wear their masks.”
  • Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates tweeted after the study's release, "Joe Biden knows that the presidency is the duty to care, and to fight for all Americans - regardless of their politics. Donald Trump doesn't even care about the very lives of his strongest supporters, let alone anyone else's."

The bottom line: "The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death," the Stanford University researchers concluded.

Go deeper: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events

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