Trump supporters express excitement ahead of President’s rally while Democrats, doctors share concerns amid coronavirus surge

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JANESVILLE, Wis. (CBS 58) – Ahead of President Donald Trump’s rally on Saturday, Oct. 17, his supporters expressed enthusiasm for the visit, but Democrats and health care workers shared concerns the event could be a super spreader for the coronavirus at a time when the state is experiencing its worst stretch of the pandemic thus far.

“I’m very excited to see the huge turnout that we have and see the enthusiasm, just all the energy we’re going to bring and just show him how much Janesville and Wisconsin and Rock County in particular love President Trump,” Michele Scherdin of Janesville told CBS 58. 

Scherdin is a neighborhood team leader for the Trump campaign and helped organize an event in Janesville for supporters to draw signs to welcome the president ahead of Saturday’s rally. Scherdin plans on attending the event and said she is not concerned about the potential spread of coronavirus.

“Not at all,” Scherdin said. “We do hand sanitizer, we always give out masks, we socially distance. I feel particularly comfortable that it’s outside.”

“I would encourage anyone who may feel they are medically compromised or not comfortable being in a group setting that they should not come,” Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R – Clinton) told reporters. “They can watch it on TV […] there are other ways that people can engage. At the same time, for those folks that are coming, they should be wearing masks, social distancing, and of course, hand sanitizer and other appropriate safety measures will be in place at the event.”

The president’s recent rallies do put in place safety measures like temperature checks, offering masks and hand sanitizer and offering opportunities to social distance. But at many of the rallies, social distancing is difficult to practice and mask wearing is often sparse.

“He’s putting Wisconsinites at risk,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D – Wisconsin) said in an interview with CBS 58 in Madison. “There could be no sharper difference between the two candidates in terms of taking this pandemic seriously.”

Baldwin and other Democrats say the event is dangerous, especially given the state’s position in its fight against COVID-19.

“In my conversations with hospital administrators and leaders, it’s a dire situation,” Baldwin said. “We are having to open a field hospital because of lack of available beds, we’re at a record not only with new coronavirus cases but hospitalizations, including ICU beds. Action needs to be taken, we all have to do our part, we have to wear masks, we have to wash our hands frequently, we have to observe social spacing and distancing in order to turn this around.”

A group of Wisconsin doctors also expressed serious concerns with the event.

“We also call on President Trump to do the right thing, put people’s health and safety ahead of politics and cancel Saturday’s rally,” said Dr. Bob Freedland, an ophthalmologist from La Crosse. Dr. Freedland and others held a video conference organized by the Committee to Protect Medicare.

The health care workers said the event would likely hurt the state’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, especially at a time when it is surging. The doctors said not only does the president’s rally lead to a likely spread of the virus, but also the spread of incorrect information on the issue.

“President Trump has sent mixed messages and misinformation that has made the job of health workers and physicians harder,” Dr. Ann Helms, a neurologist from Milwaukee, said during the conference.

The president’s rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Southern Regional Airport in Janesville.

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