President Donald Trump says he intends to continue holding large campaign rallies regardless of the threat posed by the growing coronavirus outbreak.
“We will have tremendous rallies and we’re doing very well and we’ve done a fantastic job with respect to that subject on the virus,” Trump said before dinner Saturday with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump’s rallies, which draw thousands of rapturous supporters, were a signature of his 2016 campaign and remain the beating heart of his re-election bid. He held his most recent rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 2, drawing a capacity crowd to the 9,600-seat Bojangles’ Coliseum.
There were more than 400 coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nineteen Americans have died so far, including two in Florida that the state announced Friday.
Trump’s campaign doesn’t currently have any rallies scheduled. Asked recently whether they had been discontinued because of the coronavirus outbreak, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh replied “no” in a text.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar deflected a question on Saturday about whether it would be advisable for Americans to attend the rallies during the outbreak.
“I’m in my official capacity, I don’t speak about campaign events and campaign activities,” Azar said at a briefing on the administration’s efforts to combat the virus. “It’s not proper.”
As a public health matter, medically vulnerable people should be cautious about attending large gatherings of people, Azar said, adding that he hasn’t attended any of Trump’s rallies.
— With assistance by Josh Wingrove
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