Donald Trump is returning to Arizona to make another try at an ego-fulfilling campaign event—and while he’s setting his crowd-size sights lower than he did in Tulsa, the coronavirus dangers are extreme. Trump is speaking at a Students for Trump rally held in a Phoenix megachurch and touring a border wall construction site. Where to start with this?
Let’s start with Arizona’s skyrocketing COVID-19 rates. Skyrocketing as in they’ve doubled in 15 days. As in hospitals are running low on ICU beds. As in a 20.4% positive test rate. And to make matters worse, the state has testing backlogs. That’s the real backdrop for Trump’s visit, as much as he might wish the backdrop would be a heroic image of himself against his racism wall.
Trump is starting his Arizona visit in Yuma at a border wall construction site where two workers have tested positive for COVID-19. He’ll hold a roundtable discussion of border security, tour the operations, and “thank Border Patrol and law enforcement for their tireless efforts,” according to a White House official. Since Trump is sure to lie lavishly about how much new wall he’s had put up, the facts: ONLY THREE MILES OF WALL HAVE BEEN BUILT WHERE THERE WAS NO EXISTING BARRIER. Another 184 miles replace old barriers and not quite 30 more miles of secondary barrier have been constructed.
This is not the story Trump will be telling, it’s safe to predict.
In the evening, Trump will speak at the Students for Trump rally. Dream City Church, where the rally will be held, holds about 3,000 people. Turning Point Action, the group organizing the event, will be distributing masks, which will be interesting one way or the other—either rally attendees will refuse to comply and wear them, or Trump will be faced with an audience of masked people, which he will hate. Masks are an important step, but if the church is full and people are not distanced, they’ll be of limited benefit. And again, this is a state where coronavirus is spreading fast.
Arizona is a battleground state both for Trump and for Senate Republicans, and it’s a battle that seems to be slipping away from them, which is why Trump is making his second trip to the state since coronavirus shutdowns started. But visiting as virus cases explode in the state could backfire on him—and, unfortunately, on the people of Arizona.