Trump returns to Wisconsin for large campaign rally as coronavirus cases hit record levels

By Bill Ruthhart, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Political News

JANESVILLE, Wis. - Just five days removed from his White House coronavirus quarantine, President Donald Trump is set to visit Wisconsin this weekend as the state suffers from a record-high surge in coronavirus cases.

Trump originally had planned to hold the Janesville rally two weeks ago, but instead spent the day hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center infected with COVID-19.

Two weeks later, Trump will finally arrive in Wisconsin with polls showing the president falling further behind in the state, trailing by as many as 10 points since his diagnosis stunned the nation.

Trump will touch down in Air Force One after Wisconsin set a state record on Thursday and again on Friday for new COVID-19 cases, taxing hospital capacity to the point where some patients were being treated in hallways and leading Gov. Tony Evers to open an emergency field hospital at the state fairgrounds in suburban Milwaukee.

The president's rally not only promises to pack thousands of supporters into a setting where social distancing will not be an option and few are likely to wear masks, but also will require attendees to ride crowded shuttle buses to and from a parking lot a couple miles away.

The Saturday rally planned at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville only has reinforced the wide divide between Democrats and Republicans on how best to approach the pandemic. Trump's supporters insist the coronavirus should not bring life - and the high energy rallies - to a halt while the president's staunch critics accuse him of recklessly endangering Wisconsinites' lives.


Word of Trump coming to town was enough to motivate Jen Kuhnle, a Janesville nurse, to recently take time out of her brief lunch break to pick up a yard sign for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Asked what brought her by the campaign office in Janesville's riverfront downtown, Kuhnle replied with one word: "aggression."

"Coming here and doing this rally is just crazy. This is like a power trip for him - he has to be in front of people cheering him," said Kuhnle, 40, who has not had to treat coronavirus patients but has many friends who have. "I don't like everything Biden has to say, but Trump is just not a good person. Asking people to wear a mask is very easy, but he won't do it. He just makes light of it."

Seven miles south of the airport, farmer Gary Hahn has a giant 10-by-15-foot Trump Pence flag flying from the top of his grain bins. The banner is so large that it's visible from nearby Interstate 90.

Hahn said he signed up for tickets to the rally, but probably won't go - not because he's diabetic and is at higher risk for serious illness if he contracts COVID-19, but because he's worried there is too much corn to be harvested from his 3,400 acres to spend an entire Saturday at a campaign rally.


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