The president is a superspreader.
A study conducted by four Stanford University economic researchers determined that 18 Trump campaign rallies, the bulk of which took place over the past summer, “ultimately resulted in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19” and “likely led to more than 700 deaths.”
The study examined 18 counties that hosted Trump rallies, in locations such as Tulsa, Oklahoma; Phoenix, Arizona; and Winston-Salem, NC, between June 20 and September 22. It then compared the rate of post-rally Covid-19 infections in the host counties to the rate in similar counties that did not host a rally. Attendance at individual rallies varied, but Trump often draws thousands of supporters to these events.
“For the vast majority of county matching procedures we employ,” the authors explained, their research implies that Trump’s rallies “increased subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 by more than 250 per 100,000 residents.” The researchers, including B. Douglas Bernheim, an economics professor at Stanford, and grad students Nina Buchmann, Zach Freitas-Groff, and Sebastián Otero, then extrapolated from this population-based estimate that the rallies led to thousands of new infections and likely led to hundreds deaths.
As the authors acknowledge, trying to identify exactly how many infections resulted from a Trump rally (or any other potential superspreader event) is not easy. Factors such as whether the rally is indoors, whether a large number of infected people attended, whether attendees wore masks, and “the distribution of infected individuals among rally attendees” can all lead to vastly different rates of infection from at two otherwise similar rallies.
Likewise, while the authors estimate that Trump’s summer rallies led to over 700 deaths, they note that these deaths were “not necessarily among attendees.” A rallygoer may become infected with a mild case, but that same rallygoer may give the virus to his wife, who gives it to a coworker, who gives it to their sister — and the sister dies of Covid.
Nevertheless, the average discrepancies between the number of infections in counties hosting Trump rallies and the infection rates in other, similar counties suggest that at least some of these Trump rallies were superspreader events responsible for potentially hundreds of lost lives.
Earlier this month, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that, by hosting mass political rallies as the number of Covid-19 infections is surging, Trump was “asking for trouble.” But Fauci’s warning does not appear to have deterred Trump from hosting such rallies. The president reportedly plans to host 14 rallies in the final three days of the campaign.
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Author: Ian Millhiser