WASHINGTON - For the third time in 2020, President Donald Trump has made a visit to Arizona that saw the President visit a portion of Southwestern Arizona, as well as attend a young Republican event in North Phoenix.
Arizona visit also includes visit of the border wall
Prior to the event in Phoenix, the president travelled to Yuma to mark the construction of more than 200 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue that he built his campaign on four years ago.
The “Students for Trump” event was held at a megachurch named Dream City Church, and broadcast to groups across the nation. Students for Trump is a special project of Turning Point Action, a group chaired by Trump ally Charlie Kirk, which is hosting the president for his address.
Tulsa rally saw lower turnout
Trump’s weekend rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had been meant to be a sign of the nation’s reopening and a show of political force but instead generated thousands of empty seats and swirling questions about the president’s campaign leadership and his case for another four years in office. The low turnout has sharpened the focus on Trump’s visit to Arizona, which doubles as both a 2020 battleground state and a surging coronavirus hot spot.
“We actually had a nice crowd, and -- despite all of the warnings and everything else that other networks were trying to do,” Trump said of Tulsa as he departed for Arizona, again blaming reports about protests and “bad people” for keeping away his supporters.
Campaign officials are still assessing the fallout from low turnout in Tulsa.
Campaign officials stressed that rallies would remain a staple of the president’s reelection strategy but allowed that they may, in certain states, need to change slightly. Discussions were underway about having them in more modest venues or outdoors, perhaps in airplane hangers and amphitheaters, or in smaller cities away from likely protesters.
But officials believe that Trump’s ability to draw thousands of supporters out during a pandemic sets up a favorable contrasting image with Democratic rival Joe Biden. Still, the campaign has struggled to find effective attack lines on Biden.
Biden, like Trump, has had struggles with young voters but the former vice president’s campaign has expressed hope that the national protests against racial injustice may change that.
Trip marked by concerns over coronavirus safety
Throughout the trip, the COVID-19 pandemic will shadow Trump. The Democratic mayor of Phoenix made clear that she does not believe the speech can be safely held in her city — and urged the president to wear a face mask.
“Everyone attending tomorrow’s event, particularly any elected official, should set an example to residents by wearing a mask,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “This includes the President.”
Since late May, Arizona has emerged as one of the nation’s most active hot spots for the spread of COVID-19. Use of hospitals, intensive care units, and ventilators has set daily records over the past week.
Photos of restaurants and bars crowded with unmasked patrons ignited controversy. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a Trump supporter, reversed himself last week and allowed cities and counties to require people to wear masks in public places. Most have, including Phoenix and Yuma, and the counties that surround them.
Arizona is seeing disturbing trends in several benchmarks, including the percentage of tests that prove positive for the virus, which is the highest in the nation.
The state’s positive test rate is at a seven-day average of 20.4%, well above the national average of 8.4% and the 10% level that public health officials say is a problem.
Trump has refused to wear a mask in public, instead turning it into a red-vs.-blue cultural issue. Polling suggests that Republicans are far less likely to wear a face covering than Democrats despite health experts’ warnings that it dramatically reduces the risk of transmitting the virus.
Organizers of the Trump event in Phoenix have said health and safety measures still were being finalized and it was unclear if attendees would be asked to wear masks or keep socially distant.
Officials with the church where the event is to take place say they are equipped with an air purification product that claims to "clean indoor air and surfaces of viruses, allergens, pathogens, odors, smoke, mold, ozone and harmful chemicals."
FOX 10 has visited the CleanAir EXP product website, and on the front page, officials with the company selling the product state that lab tests confirm their product eliminates 99.9% of "coronavirus surrogate from the air in less than 10 minutes."
However, the claim is marked with an asterisk, which leads readers to a disclaimer that reads: "Biosafety lab analysis performed on active Coronavirus 229E and Cystovirus Phi6 test surrogates."
“We understand there is recent confusion around the claims made by one of our customers around our laboratory testing. We’re at the forefront of air and surface purification testing and technology – we tested with a third-party Certified Biosafety Laboratory on the best coronavirus surrogates available (Coronavirus 229E and Cystovirus Phi6) and found our patented technology leads to a 99.9% elimination of airborne coronavirus surrogates. We do not, however, eliminate COVID-19 at this time. Our coronavirus surrogate testing results are significant for the future of clean air. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the CDC for additional laboratory testing and support the CDC’s guidelines on hygiene habits to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stated Tim Bender, CEO of CleanAir EXP.
CDC's website on the human coronavirus lists seven coronaviruses that can infect people, one of which is Coronavirus 229E. Coronavirus 229E, however, is not listed as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That virus is listed instead as SARS-CoV-2.
Petitioners have urged Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to ask President Trump to postpone the event.
Supporters line up hours prior, unfazed by COVID-19
Supporters of President Trump lined up hours prior to the start of the event. Some were at the event site as early as 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
"I just want to know what it’s like to witness a President and hear his speech during these difficult and uncertain times," said Hector Piminta. "I’m from Los Angeles, so I flew out this morning."
Some supporters show no concern for COVID-19.
"I think a lot of things have opened up, so why can’t we do this?" said Kara Hinton
"If they can have riots, why can’t they have a rally?" said Faith Beck.
Many were not practicing social distancing as they wait, and some supporters also say they have no plans to wear masks when inside.
Beck, however, said she will wear a mask inside.
“I would wear a mask once I get inside out of respect for other people, because personally, my system is not compromised whereas theirs might be. That is protection for them, not myself," said Beck.
Presidential visit drew criticism from Joe Biden
On Tuesday, former Vice President and presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden released a statement on Trump's visit to Arizona, saying the president's visit is "reckless and irresponsible" amid rising COVID-19 cases statewide.
Trump’s visit to the Phoenix megachurch came on the same day that Pence kicked off a faith-centered tour, highlighting the central position that religious conservatives -– particularly white evangelicals, but also right-leaning Catholics -– continue to occupy in the president’s base.
Yet even as Trump’s campaign overtly courts religious voters, there are signs of softening support among voting blocs the president can’t afford to lose.
A poll released earlier this month by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute found that the share of white Catholics viewing Trump favorably had fallen by double digits since last year, measuring 37% in the last week of May compared with 49% across 2019. The same poll found Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals at 62% in May, a level comparable to 2019’s — but 15% less than it was in March.
Trump’s focus on construction of his long-promised border wall also is meant to shore up support with his most loyal supporters.
His administration has promised to build 450 miles by the end of the year, but that seems unlikely. The government has awarded more than $6.1 billion in construction contracts since April 2019 for various projects along the border. It has also waived procurement rules that critics say make the process of awarding multi-million dollar contracts secretive and opaque.
The White House this month floated a theory that travel from Mexico may be contributing to a new wave of coronavirus infections, rather than states’ efforts to reopen their economies. It was not clear that the evidence supports the theory.
Trump’s first visit to the border in more than a year comes a day after another hardline immigration move. The Trump administration said Monday that it was extending a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and adding many temporary work visas to the freeze, including those used heavily by technology companies and multinational corporations.
The administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Cooper and Astrid Galvan in Phoenix and Elana Schor in New York contributed to this report.
In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus
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- Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers
- Coronavirus: Symptoms, testing and how to prepare amid growing COVID-19 outbreak
- How coronavirus differs from flu: Symptoms to watch for
Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu.
Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.
Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.
To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.
And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.