Story at a glance
- The rally will be held at Dream City Church, a megachurch that has faced recent criticism for claiming it installed a ventilation system that “kills 99.9 percent of COVID within 10 minutes.”
- Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) said she hopes everyone attending Tuesday’s event will wear a mask, including the president.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed Trump over his decision to hold a second rally in a coronavirus hot spot in less than a week.
President Trump is set to speak to thousands of his supporters Tuesday at a Phoenix megachurch as the state has become a hot spot for coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The rally has drawn criticism from his political opponents and local officials concerned about the health risks posed by large groups gathering amid the outbreak.
Following Trump’s Tuesday afternoon visit to Yuma, Ariz., to check in on the construction of the border wall, the president will be speaking at the “Students for Trump” event organized by conservative advocacy group Turning Point Action. The event will be held at Dream City Church, a megachurch that has faced criticism for recently claiming that it installed a ventilation system that “kills 99.9 percent of COVID within 10 minutes.”
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In a since-deleted Facebook video, the megachurch’s pastor, Luke Barnett, said the church installed CleanAir EXP filter units, saying “when you come into our auditorium, 99.9% of COVID is gone, killed, if it was there in the first place.”
“So you can know when you come down here, you’ll be safe and protected,” Barnett said in the video.
The president’s visit comes as the Grand Canyon State continues to grapple with the outbreak. Arizona reported 3,591 new cases Tuesday, a single-day record high, with 2,136 hospitalizations, up about 7 percent from the 1,992 reported Monday and more than double the number at the beginning of the month. The state has recorded 58,179 total cases with 1,394 deaths. Forty-two additional deaths were reported Tuesday.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reversed his position on masks last week, allowing counties and cities to make the decision whether they will require their residents to wear masks when they are unable to adhere to social distancing guidance.
In Phoenix, the mayor has decided to make masks mandatory for people inside buildings who are not able to put 6 feet between themselves and others.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) said she hopes everyone attending Tuesday’s event will wear a mask, including the president.
“While I do not believe an event of this magnitude can be held safely, particularly as Arizona sees rising COVID cases, the president has decided to continue with this rally,” Gallego said in a statement.
“Everyone attending tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) event, particularly any elected official, should set an example to residents by wearing a mask. This includes the president,” she said, adding: “Public health is a group effort, not a partisan issue. It requires the participation of every resident and level of government.”
Roughly 3,000 conservative activists are expected to attend the event and attendees will be asked, but not required, to wear masks. The organizers behind the event say they expect those in attendance to wear face masks in accordance with local ordinances. President Trump, however, has not adhered to public health experts recommendations to wear a mask while attending public events.
Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed Trump over his decision to hold a second rally in a coronavirus hot spot in less than a week. The event comes on the heels of Trump’s controversial campaign rally on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where most of the attendees opted not to wear face masks in defiance of guidance from public health officials.
“Make no mistake: this visit is a distraction,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a written statement to The Arizona Republic. “It’s a distraction from Donald Trump’s failed response to combat the spread of COVID-19. It’s a distraction from his failure to get Americans — including many in Arizona — the testing we need. It’s a distraction from his inability to offer a concrete, effective reopening plan that’s rooted in science and public health. It’s a distraction from his corrupt recovery that failed to get small businesses and working families the resources they needed to weather this pandemic.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) who represents much of the Phoenix area in Congress, said he’s concerned about attendees contracting the coronavirus and spreading it across the state and country.
“When the president comes in and acts as if there is no public health crisis, it’s harder for us local leaders to actually stem the real crisis,” Gallego told ABC News.
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