Shortly before President Trump took the stage on Sunday night in Henderson, Nev., for his first indoor rally in months, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak blasted the president for flouting the state’s coronavirus restrictions by packing hundreds of supporters, many without masks, into a building.
The Democratic governor noted that Trump and his campaign were violating Nevada’s ban on gatherings of 50 people or more, tweeting that the president’s rally at Xtreme Manufacturing was “shameful, dangerous and irresponsible.”
“Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada,” the governor said. “The President appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.”
The indoor rally, which featured maskless supporters standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside the industrial facility, came as the United States surpasses 190,000 dead from the novel coronavirus. In Nevada, where Trump held multiple events over the weekend, there have been more than 73,500 cases and more than 1,450 deaths related to the virus.
Sunday’s rally followed a campaign event last week in Winston-Salem, N.C., in which Trump mocked pandemic restrictions by not wearing a mask and jeered at the state’s restrictions against outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh rejected criticism of the rally, with the campaign noting that rally attendees were subject to a temperature check, had access to hand sanitizer, and were provided masks and encouraged to wear them.
“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” Murtaugh said in a statement.
Joe Biden’s campaign was also quick to bash the president for holding sizable rallies that violate states’ public health rules. The Democratic presidential nominee has maintained a more socially-distanced campaign, following the guidelines of public health experts, said Mike Gwin, a Biden campaign spokesman.
“Every rally turned superspreader event Donald Trump decides to hold serves as another reminder to Americans that Trump still refuses to take this pandemic seriously and still doesn’t have a plan to stop it, even after nearly 200,000 deaths and untold economic damage,” Gwin said in a statement.
Sunday’s event was the president’s first indoor rally since a June gathering in Tulsa. A top local health official in the Oklahoma city later said that the rally and other large gatherings, including protests, “more than likely” contributed to Tulsa County’s surge in coronavirus cases. At least six staff members at the site of the Tulsa rally had also tested positive for the virus, The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig reported.
Herman Cain, a former pizza chain executive and Republican presidential candidate, was hospitalized with covid-19 less than two weeks after attending the Tulsa rally, which featured several thousand people, most of whom did not wear masks. Cain later died of the disease on July 30 at age 74. (It’s unclear when and where he contracted the coronavirus.)
Leading up to Sunday’s rally, medical professionals and local officials warned of the dangers of letting the indoor event proceed. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, likened the decision to hold the Henderson rally to “negligent homicide.”
“What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the deaths of others?” he said to CNN. “If you have a mass gathering now in the United States in a place like Nevada or just about any other place with hundreds of thousands of people, people will get infected and some of those people will die.”
Kathleen Richards, a spokeswoman for the city of Henderson, told reporters that the city had issued verbal and written warnings to Xtreme Manufacturing about social-distancing restrictions and threatened the company with a citation and the loss of its business license.
The firm did not immediately return a request for comment late Sunday. Don Ahern, who owns the venue, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the state had fined him nearly $11,000 last month for not following the state’s coronavirus policies after he held a Trump campaign event and beauty pageant attended by hundreds of people at the Ahern Hotel on the Strip.
“Under Donald J. Trump, we will always have the right to assemble,” he told the newspaper. “Apparently, tonight, we don’t have that right to assemble.”
Questioning why Trump “blatantly disregarded” the state’s emergency restrictions, Sisolak on Sunday called the president’s actions “an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices, and put their neighbors before themselves.”
Trump made direct reference to the governor just once during his 70-minute campaign speech, calling him a “political hack” and saying that he “would be watching” the state’s ballots.
“If the governor comes after you, which he shouldn’t be doing, I’ll be with you all the way,” the president said.