Trump supporters voice concerns over COVID-19 pandemic at “Students for Trump” rally in Phoenix on June 23, 2020. Arizona Republic
President Donald Trump spent less than 10 minutes of his hour-long speech discussing the new coronavirus, despite the fact that Arizona cases reached record levels last week.
The crowd of around 3,000 supporters also seemed uninterested in lingering over the pandemic, which has killed 1,342 Arizonans and 121,176 Americans since arriving in the United States earlier this year.
Most of the participants who gathered in the Dream City Church in northern Phoenix were not wearing face covers. None of the speakers for the event, including the president.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Maricopa County and Phoenix issued ordinances requiring masks in public places last week.
But inside the mega-church, the vast majority of people flouted the new laws and wondered if the pandemic was really of concern.
During his speech, the president repeatedly assured his crowd that the United States was “at the end of the pandemic”.
Fans wait for tight hours for hours
Some Trump supporters started lining up outside the church early in the morning Tuesday to make sure they came in to hear the president’s remarks.
The debate over the coronavirus and masks started almost immediately. The majority of people in line were not wearing face covers and many were not spaced within the suggested 6 feet.
Trump supporters await the start of the student rally for Trump at the Dream City Church in Phoenix where President Donald Trump will speak on June 23, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace / The Republic)
Tony Smith crossed the line distributing flyers for a demonstration against face masks scheduled for Wednesday in Scottsdale. She called the COVID-19 pandemic a scam and said that those worried about it could stay at home.
I will not wear a mask and it will be for health reasons, religious reasons, ethical reasons, she said.
Chalena Grisby was trying to sell masks to the people in line. She had not made many sales and said that she did not understand the opposition.
If you can do something to help yourself and others, do it, she says.
Tori Kimball, 18, wore a Make America Great Again red hat and mask while queuing. Kimball works for state senator Heather Carter’s campaign, R-Cave Creek, so she may have been on the Trump Rally VIP list, she said.
She said she decided to wear a mask when she was online, near other people. She constantly washes her hands. But if people are ready to attend the event and introduce themselves, it’s their choice, she said. If they are afraid, they can wear their mask or stay at home, she added.
Jerry Olivo, 64, said it was a unique chance to see a president. Olivo has never attended a Trump rally before.
He said he was concerned about COVID-19 at his age and because he was suffering from underlying health conditions. He declared before the start of the rally that he planned to wear his mask indoors unless it was difficult to breathe.
Hopefully, with the blessing of the Lords, I am leaving this day in the same way that I arrived in good health, said Olivo.
Masks not needed inside
Although the city and county where Dream City Church is located require people to wear masks in public, no one enforced the laws at the rally.
In a statement released on Monday, Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego said the goal of the face mask is not to “distribute quotes but to educate the public about the virus and its transmission.”
Gallego said the church told its office that staff would distribute masks to event attendees and check the temperatures.
An event organizer said that staff had not finished checking temperatures due to logistical problems, but had opened a third level of seats to allow more space between participants. The organizer said that some masks were available and that participants were encouraged to bring their own.
Brothers Thomas and Albert Gonzales, students of the University of the Grand Canyon, did not wear masks while waiting for the Students for Trump program to start.
Albert said that many of his teachers do not “really panic” about the coronavirus, so he did not feel the need for it.
Students for Trump is a politically active non-profit organization aligned with Turning Point USA. Since 2016, this organization maintains a “professors’ watch list”, the aim of which is to “denounce and document university professors who discriminate against conservative students and to advance left-wing propaganda in the classroom “
A woman watches President Donald Trump speak at the Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 23, 2020. (Photo: Nick Oza / The Republic)
Thomas said there was a Turning Point USA group at GCU, and Donald Trump Jr. spoke to their group last year. They hope that his father will come to the GCU in 2023 to give his starting address.
Zach and Vanessa Elliott of Surprise also attended the maskless rally. They said it was their first presidential rally and that they wanted to support the president during his re-election campaign.
Vanessa said she heard a lot of conflicting opinions about the masks and didn’t know if they were safe.
“I guess I am confused,” she said.
Zach said he had read that masks force you to breathe carbon monoxide, which is dangerous.
He said he saw other countries asking residents at higher risk and the elderly to isolate themselves, instead of requiring everyone to wear a mask. He thinks this is how he would like to see local officials manage the pandemic.
“I don’t want to stop living my life out of fear,” said Zach.
Focus on Trump: China’s role in the pandemic
Trump only briefly mentioned the international pandemic in his speech. And his primary intention seemed to be to cheer the crowd.
He said the virus was from China.
He repeatedly called the virus a scourge and once called it “an invisible enemy of a distant land”.
President Donald Trump speaks during the “Students for Trump” rally at the Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 23, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace / The Republic)
Whenever he alluded to the virus, members of the public shouted “Kung Flu”. Finally, the President himself declared the term racist, saying that it is what some people call COVID-19.
Trump also downplayed the severity of the virus and hinted that America had already seen the worst and that the economy was already recovering.
Arizona reported 3,591 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the most in a single day so far.
Meanwhile, the number of people in hospital beds in Arizona with COVID-19 exceeded 2000 for the first time.
Trump blamed the increase in cases on more tests.
When you have all of these tests, you have more cases, said the president.
He added: Then they will say: We have more cases. We want to test. We want to do everything. But they use it to make us look bad.
Someone in the crowd shouted, “Stop the tests.”
Arizona health officials said the growing number of hospitalizations and cases was more than just an increase in tests.
The percentage of tests returning positive has increased sharply since mid-May, indicating a significant increase in community spread. In the past three weeks, cases have increased 174% and tests have increased 85%, according to analysis from data from the Arizona Department of Health Services in Arizona.
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Republic journalists BrieAnna J. Frank, Cleo Krejci and Andrew Oxford contributed to this article.
Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.
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