The day after President Donald Trump’s largely maskless, packed Henderson rally, medical experts have weighed in, and their prognosis is not good.
Jonathan Reiner, a medical analyst for CNN, told the network that holding such an indoor rally amid the coronavirus pandemic was akin to "negligent homicide."
"What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the deaths of others," said Reiner, a doctor and professor of medicine at George Washington University. "If you have a mass gathering now in the United States, in a place like Nevada or just about any other place with hundreds or thousands of people, people will get infected and some of those people will die.”
The rally has the potential to result in a spike in coronavirus cases as reported by health officials after Trump’s Tulsa, Okla., rally in June, another expert said.
“We know that one sick person can infect multiple sick people, and of course there’s always the concern that it could be a super-spreader event where one sick person is in just the right place at the right time and can infect hundreds or thousands of people,” said Brian Labus, a UNLV epidemiologist and a member of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 medical advisory panel.
Sunday's rally at Xtreme Manufacturing — Trump's first big indoor event since Tulsa — violated a state prohibition on gatherings of over 50 people and White House recommendations to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
The city of Henderson released a statement Monday saying Xtreme Manufacturing would be fined $3,000 for six violations of state emergency directives. The business has 30 days to pay the penalty or dispute it.
Xtreme Mechanics owner Don Ahern doubled down on his support for Trump on Monday, saying: “I believe that it is my patriotic duty to do what is right for our country. What is right is supporting President Donald J. Trump.”
Ahern compared the rally to other gatherings in Southern Nevada, such as crowds at casinos or demonstrations on the Strip calling for police reform.
“My goal was to continue the great American traditions of the right to assembly and to free speech,” Ahern said. “No different than the thousands that are allowed to assemble at gaming tables, maskless pool parties and protests across the street.”
Nevada’s casinos, though, are heavily monitored by state gaming officials. All patrons are required to wear mask, or the property is immediately fined. At the Sunday rally, an overwhelming number of the 5,000 indoor attendees did not wear a mask. More maskless supporters gathered outside.
“Anytime you have an event that brings people together, whether it’s a barbecue in the backyard or a large political rally, there’s that chance for disease transmission,” Labus said. “The more people you have there, the more likely it is that somebody there was sick and infectious and spread it to someone else.”
Sisolak appeared on MSNBC today, again going after Trump’s decision and saying the president was “only concerned about himself.”
“He’s concerned about his own health. He’s not concerned about all the folks that were there…,” Sisolak said in an interview with Ayman Mohyeldin.
Labus said one infected person typically passes the virus to an average of 2.5 people. He expects coronavirus cases tied to the rally, though it would be difficult to predict how many.
“The president appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic,” Sisolak said in a statement Sunday. “Early on in this crisis, when it came time to exhibit real leadership and make difficult decisions to protect the American people, he failed to develop a unified national response strategy.
“To put it bluntly: he didn’t have the guts to make tough choices — he left that to governors and the states. Now he’s decided he doesn’t have to respect our state’s laws. As usual, he doesn’t believe the rules apply to him.”
Devin Raman, a senior disease investigator with the Southern Nevada Health District, said an increase in COVID-19 cases is expected for multiple reasons.
“We are already expecting a small spike because of the Labor Day holiday,” Raman said. “We know there was a lot of travel, probably a lot of get-togethers. It would be very challenging to determine whether a spike was caused by a long holiday weekend or a particular event that just happened on one night.”