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Trump defends holding campaign rallies even as coronavirus spreads

President Donald Trump said Monday he thinks it’s “very safe” to continue hosting crowded campaign rallies around the country even as his administration contends with a growing outbreak of coronavirus in the United States.

“These were set up a long time ago,” the President said in the Oval Office when asked if it was a good idea to proceed with his planned rally on Monday evening in North Carolina.

Health experts have said avoiding large crowds where the virus could spread is a good idea for older people, who appear to be more vulnerable. Some major gatherings, such as industry conferences and international summits, have been scrapped, but sporting and entertainment events in the US are proceeding as planned and Democratic presidential candidates continue to host rallies.

Trump insisted his campaign rallies, which can bring thousands of supporters into contained spaces, did not pose a risk.

“I think it’s very safe,” he said in the Oval Office, where he was hosting Colombia’s President.

Trump’s event Monday evening at the Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte is currently the only rally on his upcoming schedule. He’s recently been appearing in states with Democratic primary contests in the hopes of distracting from the contest to replace him.

Trump said Democratic presidential candidates should be presented with the same question about hosting rallies in the age of coronavirus, though in the past he’s made a point of denigrating the size of his rivals’ crowds.

Trump’s business-as-usual approach to his campaign schedule came as his administration finds itself consumed by responding to the outbreak, which has spread to 10 states and killed two people in the United States.

US officials were bracing for an uptick in diagnosed cases as more testing was being made available to state health authorities.

Trump will devote much of his schedule this week to the coronavirus effort, including in-person visits to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

On Monday, he’s due to meet with representatives from pharmaceutical companies to discuss efforts to develop a vaccine.

“We’re talking about a vaccine, maybe a cure, it’s possible, we’ll see about that,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Monday. “We’ve asked them to accelerate whatever they’re doing in terms of a vaccine.”

American health officials have said a vaccine is still more than a year away from being finalized.

White House officials, led by Vice President Mike Pence, also plan to meet with representatives of the airline and cruise industries this week. On Saturday, the administration announced new travel restrictions on people who’d recently visited Iran, as well as heightened advisories warning against travel to South Korea and Italy.

Pence also has plans to visit the Minnesota headquarters of 3M on Thursday. The company manufactures the N95 mask, which could be used by patients and health care workers to prevent the spread of the virus. 3M said it was scaling up production of the masks, though health authorities said non-infected people don’t need to wear them.

But Pence, who Trump tasked with leading the administration’s coronavirus response, was also not planning to forgo his political schedule. He will proceed with a planned bus tour of campaign stops in Wisconsin and Minnesota around his visit to 3M’s headquarters.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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