As the United States caps off its worst week of the coronavirus pandemic yet, researchers say that Donald Trump’s rallies over the summer potentially caused tens of thousands of coronavirus cases and upwards of 1,000 covid-related deaths.
The Stanford researchers, who published their findings on open access preprint platform SSRN, analyzed data from areas where 18 of the president’s reelection campaign rallies were held between June 20 and Sept. 22, CNBC reports. According to their conclusions, which have not yet gone through peer review, those events caused more than 30,000 covid cases, which then resulted in over 700 deaths.
“The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” the paper’s lead author, B. Douglas Bernheim of Stanford’s economics department, told the outlet.
When reached for comment, a representative for the Trump campaign defended the president’s insistence on inviting supporters to attend such large, sometimes indoor gatherings with low social-distancing despite all of the obvious covid risks therein.
“Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” said spokesperson Courtney Parella.
A spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign was, understandably, more critical, telling CNBC: “[Trump is] costing hundreds of lives and sparking thousands of cases with super spreader rallies that only serve his own ego.”
The researchers’ findings come as the U.S. closes out its “worst week” of the pandemic, per The New York Times. The country reported more than half a million new cases over the past seven days, one of which saw more than 99,000 new infections—a global record for daily new cases, apparently—and all while viral hot spots are cropping up all over.
“We’re going to see much less evidence of regionalization of this virus over the course of the next several weeks,” Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota told the Times. “I think this is going to ultimately end up being an entire country on fire.”
“I don’t see any location in the United States that’s going to be free of a major increase in cases,” he continued. “And I think we’re just getting started.”
There have been 9,024,298 covid cases reported in the U.S. as of Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 229,000 deaths.