Trump campaign forges ahead as Covid pandemic looms larger

Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct 3, 2020.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct 3, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON- As President Donald Trump and growing numbers of his inner circle fall prey to the Covid-19 virus, cases have risen across several states; 24 saw their number of new cases rise at least 10 per cent last week from the week before, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

According to a Reuters analysis, on Saturday (Oct 3) alone four states - Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin - saw record increases in new cases and nationally nearly 49,000 new infections were reported, the highest for a Saturday in seven weeks.

The United States is reporting 42,600 new cases and 700 deaths on average each day, and there are fears that cases - and deaths - will continue to increase as cold weather forces more people to mingle indoors where the danger of passing the virus around is greater.

New York City reported "concerning clusters" of high positive rates. The city's health department said 12 neighbourhoods were accounting for 30 per cent new cases despite the fact they only represent nine per cent of the city's population.

Three Republican Senators, and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, have also tested positive. So has Mr Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien.

Nationwide, the coronavirus has killed over 209,000.

The shadow of the pandemic, and the economic destruction triggered by it, looms larger now with President Trump's hospitalisation. White House doctor Sean P. Conley on Saturday declined to give a timetable for Trump's possible release from hospital.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also had the coronavirus some months ago, and saw his popularity rise slightly on sympathy. But there may be no such bump for Mr Trump. "The US is way too divided / President Trump too divisive to elicit the broader sympathy that Boris Johnson received in the UK," tweeted Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer on Sunday .

Thus his sidelining among the tight race in which half a dozen states are still rated tossups cannot be allowed to derail the campaign, which Mr Stepien continues to manage remotely.

In discussions with supporters on Saturday, Mr Trump's son Eric and daughter-in-law Lara, and campaign officials, maintained that the President was in good shape and that news coverage of his condition was overblown, the New York Times reported.

"The mainstream media makes their money off of having shock and awe," Ms Lara Trump told supporters on a phone call. "Please, when you see these reports, do not get upset."

 
 
 

The President was "going to come out on top" and beat the virus "to a pulp" and he would then "very handily beat Joe Biden to a pulp on Nov 3," she said.

Mr Eric Trump described his father as energetic and said they had spoken at length by phone, with the President at one point telling an aide to get Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on the phone to discuss a long-stalled stimulus package.

The second of three presidential debates of the campaign, scheduled for Oct 15, is in doubt.

But to keep supporters energised, the Trump campaign is billing its next phase as "Operation MAGA" - a mix of virtual events leading up to Wednesday's scheduled debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Mr Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.

President Trump is "going to defeat this virus" and "once he gets out of the hospital, he's ready to get back to the campaign trail," senior campaign adviser Jason Miller told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

 
 
 

Mr Miller said that in a phone conversation on Saturday the President - who has been for months defying public health recommendations and mocking his rival Mr Biden for wearing a mask - wants "to remind folks to wash their hands, use hand sanitiser, make sure that if you can't socially distance to wear a mask".

In a tweet Dr Jonathan Metzl, director, Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, wrote : "Core Trump base no more likely to start wearing masks than they are to support healthcare reform, saving the planet, gun safety.

"Rather, getting Covid-19 now takes on new political meaning - becomes an expression of self-sacrifice and a way of showing devotion to the cause."

Facing the multiple pressures of the pandemic, the economic crash, protests against racist policing, and the deep political divide, the US remains volatile ahead of the election.

On Saturday night in Seattle, radical left wing Antifa protesters attacked property and burned down a Starbucks outlet.

 

Seattle police said 16 arrests were made for "property destruction, assault, failure to disperse, and rendering criminal assistance."