, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons (excerpt)

October 17, 2020; McDuffie Progress

A bipartisan national advocacy network called Rural America 2020 has been erecting billboards around the country warning people that Trump rallies can be dangerous to their health. It’s a vivid red digital display, warning all and sundry that the rally would be a “Trump COVID Superspreader Event.” The first appeared in Des Moines, Iowa, and the second one in Macon, Georgia, showed up in advance of Trump’s October 15, 2020, visit to the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

Rural America 2020 is made up of steering committees of rural leaders and farmers across multiple states who educate and advocate for public policy issues that affect their communities. Those working with the group in Bibb County say the sign is a public health precaution.

“This billboard is a public service announcement,” says Seth Clark, a Macon-Bibb County Commissioner-elect who works with the Rural America 2020 campaign.
“Nobody wants to see a superspreader event, but that’s exactly what these rallies are becoming. By ignoring expert warnings on distancing and masks, the president and his campaign are flying from one location to the next and leaving COVID hot spots behind. We don’t need that in Georgia, particularly since our state has already seen well over 300,000 infections.”

“We should all be worried about a president who was in the hospital with COVID last week and who now wants to pack thousands of Iowans into an airport hangar,” says Iowa Rural America 2020 Steering Committee member Chris Henning. “This is the height of irresponsibility. We saw what happened in the Rose Garden. Why should the President be allowed to bring that kind of superspreader behavior into Iowa, particularly when our cases are rising?”

But bring it he did, with a crowd of unknown size in attendance, most not wearing masks. Dr. Anthony Fauci warned last Monday that hosting large rallies was “asking for trouble” in states that are already seeing spikes in infection numbers.

“If anyone in attendance is infectious, we are potentially looking at another superspreader event,” said Lina Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association. “We again today set a record high for hospitalizations. We need to be focusing on bringing those numbers down and controlling the spread, not enabling large events, political or otherwise.”

According to the New York Times, rural areas have been hit very hard, spurred in part by the Sturgis motorcycle rally superspreader event in August. Even though the numbers appear relatively limited next to more populated areas, the per-capita rates of infection are higher, with South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana seeing the highest in the country. Last week, North Dakota had the nation’s highest transmission rate, at 608 cases per 100,000 residents, which is 12 times the current rate of transmission in New York state. Wyoming, Idaho, West Virginia, Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Alaska, and Oklahoma have also seen significant spikes.—Ruth McCambridge