WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that it remained “very safe” for him and his Democratic opponents to hold large campaign rallies like the one scheduled for North Carolina later in the day even as businesses and nonprofit groups are canceling large conventions out of concern over coronavirus.
Speaking with reporters at the White House, Trump expressed no concern over holding campaign events that fill stadiums with thousands of people as the election season heats up. He planned to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, in the afternoon for an evening rally at Bojangles’ Coliseum, which lists its capacity as 8,600.
“Well, these were set up a long time ago and others are,” he said during a media availability in the Oval Office alongside President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia, who was visiting. “I mean, you could ask that to the Democrats because they’re having a lot of rallies. They’re all having rallies. That’s what they’re doing. They’re campaigning.” He added: “I think it’s very safe, yeah, I think it’s very safe.”
A number of large conventions have been scrubbed in recent days over fears of the coronavirus. The American Physical Society on Sunday canceled its international gathering in Denver scheduled to open Monday even after some of the 11,000 expected participants had begun to arrive. Workday turned its internal sales meeting for 3,000 that was supposed to open in Orlando, Florida, on Monday into a “virtual experience” event instead. Facebook has scrapped a global marketing summit in San Francisco scheduled in March and an annual software developer conference in San Jose, California, in May.
“The health and well-being of our meeting attendees, staff, vendors and the Denver community are our primary concern,“ Phil Bucksbaum, president of the physical society, said in announcing its decision. “We recognize and sincerely regret that the timing of this decision has significantly inconvenienced many members of our community.”
At least some of the affected conventions were aimed at bringing people into the country at a time when travel is being restricted between the United States and countries like China and Italy, where the outbreak has been more pronounced. By contrast, the rallies hosted by Trump and his Democratic rivals attract mainly local residents.
The president’s comments came as he opened a week in which infections inside the United States were expected to grow along with the economic consequences. While playing down the threat of the virus, Trump has scheduled a series of events this week to try to demonstrate that he has a grip on the crisis, including a meeting with pharmaceutical executives later Monday as well as a trip to the National Institutes for Health on Tuesday and possibly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later in the week.
“Working very hard with the CDC with everybody on a subject that has become a very big subject,” Trump told reporters. “Our country is doing very well; our professionals are doing really an incredible job.”
While more cases are emerging, Trump noted that overall it was still “not very many in the United States.”
“We’re talking about a vaccine; maybe a cure, it’s possible,” he said. “So we’ll see about that. But we’re about a vaccine. And they’re moving along very quickly, all of the pharmaceutical companies, are moving along very quickly.”