A public health expert at George Washington University rebuked President Donald Trump's campaign after it argued that Trump had a right to host an estimated 25,000 people at an indoor campaign rally Sunday evening in Nevada because hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken part in racial justice protests in recent months.
After receiving harsh criticism for holding its first indoor rally since June in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, the campaign responded by saying, "If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets...or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the president of the United States."
The campaign was essentially arguing in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that "it's only fair that the president be allowed to kill some of his supporters by exposing them to superspreader events," tweeted Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor at GWU and aCNN analyst.
According to public health experts, the outdoor racial justice protests that have taken place across the country have not been linked to spikes in coronavirus transmission, likely because of high levels of compliance with mask-wearing guidelines. At the March on Washington anniversary rally in August, marchers were not permitted to attend without a face mask.
Reiner appeared on CNN Monday morning to accuse the president of "negligent homicide" at Sunday's rally, where a majority of attendees appeared to not wear face masks.
"That's what you'd call the actions of somebody who through their negligence causes the death of other people," Reiner said. "We're in a pandemic and Clark County, Nevada has a lot of virus. So with thousands of people, there's complete certainty that there are people in that crowd, probably asymptomatic carriers of the virus, who will spread the virus."
Clark County has one of Nevada's highest seven-day averages for coronavirus infections, with 62 out of every 100,000 people infected.
"If you were trying to somehow increase the amount of virus in the community, what you would do is gather thousands of people shoulder to shoulder without masks and have them scream and yell and laugh for a few hours," Reiner said of Trump's Nevada rally.
Trump's last indoor campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was linked to a significant surge in Covid-19 cases, according to Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.
Campaign staff at the Sunday rally in Nevada checked attendees' temperatures and provided access to hand sanitizer, but mask-wearing was not required—in defiance of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak's orders.
Sisolak has mandated that people cannot gather in groups larger than 50 and must observe public health officials' mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.
The governor accused the president of being "reckless" and "selfish" by holding the event.
"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," Sisolak tweeted. "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."
Last week, one epidemiologist raised similar alarm over the president's rally in Freeland, Michigan, where many attendees in a crowd of 5,000 were seen without face coverings.
"This is the crap that makes grown epidemiologists cry," said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.