Are Trump rallies super-spreader events? Study says they may have led to 30,000 Covid-19 cases and 700 deaths

Researchers investigated the effects of large group meetings on the spread of Covid-19 by studying the impact of 18 Trump campaign rallies that were held between June 20 and September 22


                            Are Trump rallies super-spreader events? Study says they may have led to 30,000 Covid-19 cases and 700 deaths
(Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s election rallies may have led to 700 deaths and 30,000 new cases of coronavirus, according to Stanford University researchers. They investigated the effects of large group meetings on the spread of Covid-19 by studying the impact of 18 Trump campaign rallies that were held between June 20 and September 22, and analyzing coronavirus data the weeks following each event. The authors estimated that subsequent confirmed cases of Covid-19 increased by more than 250 per 100,000 residents.

“Extrapolating this figure to the entire sample, we conclude that these eighteen rallies ultimately resulted in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of Covid-19. Applying county-specific post-event death rates, we conclude that the rallies likely led to more than 700 deaths, not necessarily among attendees,” writes the team. According to the research team, the analysis “strongly supports” the warnings and recommendations of public health officials concerning the risk of Covid-19 transmission at large group gatherings, particularly when the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing is low. “The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” they emphasize.

List of rallies included in the analysis (Stanford University)

 

Infectious disease experts have long suspected that the President’s rallies ahead of the November 3 election may have been super-spreader events. “(Trump rallies) involved large numbers of attendees. The set of major Trump campaign events is easily identified: we know whether and when the Trump campaign held a rally in each county. The rallies were not geographically ubiquitous. As a result, we always have a rich set of untreated counties we can use as comparators. At least through September 2020, the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing was low in part because the Trump campaign downplayed the risk of infection. This feature heightens the risk that a rally could become a 'super-spreader event',” explains the team.

While the Trump campaign held many rallies after September 22, the current paper did not include them in the analysis. This is because the effects of an event may grow substantially over time “as incremental infections spread”, and the investigators wanted at least four weeks of post-event data, excluding the week of the rally. According to them, another reason is that there are some indications that compliance with public health guidelines, such as the use of masks, improved at later rallies.

According to experts, at least through September, the degree of compliance with guidelines concerning the use of masks and social distancing was low in part because the Trump campaign downplayed the risk of infection. This feature heightens the risk that a rally could become a super-spreader event (Getty Images)

 

The study, which is not peer-reviewed, compared the number of confirmed cases in rally counties with matched counties where there was no rally — revealing the impact of large group gatherings on coronavirus spread. “Our method is based on a collection of regression models, one for each event, that capture the relationships between post-event outcomes and pre-event characteristics, including demographics and the trajectory of Covid-19 cases, in similar counties,” the authors explain. In addition to data on rallies and the spread of Covid-19, they use data on testing, coronavirus-related policies and county-level demographic and election data.

Commenting on the report, Courtney Parella, Trump’s deputy national press secretary, said: “Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the President of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events, requiring every attendee to have their temperature checked, providing masks they’re instructed to wear, and ensuring access to plenty of hand sanitizer. We also have signs at our events instructing attendees to wear their masks.” Andrew Bates, Biden’s campaign spokesperson, tweeted after the study was published, “Joe Biden knows that the presidency is the duty to care, and to fight for all Americans - regardless of their politics. Donald Trump doesn’t even care about the very lives of his strongest supporters, let alone anyone else’s.”



 

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here