Health Officials Report No COVID Cases Traced Back to Trump's Mt. Rushmore Event


There are a finite number of hours I have remaining in my life, and I spend some of them reading The Bulwark, the NeverTrump publication fronted by NeverTrump godhead Bill Kristol, formerly of über-establishment rag The Weekly Standard.

Before you ask — yes, I’m bored and geeky.

Last week, the target was Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk; writer Amanda Carpenter found him to be empty, ambitious and willing to court pretty much anyone in the Trump family orbit.

This is to be distinguished from Bill Kristol, who was empty, ambitious and willing to court pretty much everyone in the Bush family orbit.

The piece began with a Students for Trump convention in Arizona at which, Carpenter wrote, “an estimated 3,000 people, nearly all maskless, stood in line and then gathered together inside the Dream City Church, a place of worship that claimed to have an air-purification system capable of killing ‘99.9 percent of COVID within 10 minutes.’

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“They listened to hours of speechifying from Trump supporters, including GOP South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who addressed the crowd virtually and bragged about her state’s resistance to shutting down during the pandemic. (When she hosted Trump at Mount Rushmore on Friday, it was sans social distancing, natch.).”

And natch, this was going to be a disaster. Noem told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham if you wanted to wear a mask in the open-air environs of Mount Rushmore, that was a you thing.

“You know Laura, in South Dakota, we’ve told people to focus on personal responsibility,” the governor said. “Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. So, we will be having celebrations of American independence.

“We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home. But those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we won’t be social distancing.”

Should Donald Trump have held the July 3 event at Mount Rushmore?

Few wore masks — although it was an outdoor environment, where studies have shown it’s more difficult to pass on the novel coronavirus. However, this was apparently supposed to be as dangerous as playing full-contact lawn darts at dusk in a field of lit M80s with oily rags strewn all over the place.

On July 1, USA Today reported health experts “fear[ed] the celebration, which 7,500 people are expected to attend — along with a lack of mitigation efforts — could lead to a spike in infections in the communities near the event and where the attendees live.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has four levels of coronavirus risk for events and the Mount Rushmore fireworks falls into the highest risk category: a large in-person gathering where it’ll be hard for attendees to remain 6 feet apart and attendees have traveled from outside the local area.”

This seems slightly drastic. Even being a hypochondriac/cyberchondriac, knowing what I know about outdoor transmission, I wouldn’t have an issue with attending. (Although I’d still have the mask on.)

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried.

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From the Monday edition of the Rapid City Journal of Rapid City, South Dakota: “A state epidemiologist said in a call Monday with reporters that no public notices or trends in the data reflect an outbreak resulting from the July 3 fireworks show attended by President Trump at Mount Rushmore.

“Dr. Joshua Clayton, epidemiologist for the Department of Health, said in this instance, no public notices need to go out to those who went to the event.

“Clayton also said the DOH isn’t seeing any specific trends related to new cases in Pennington, Custer, Meade or other surrounding counties as related to the July 3 fireworks show.

“’What we typically have seen is that our cases have some amount of travel out of the state (or) individuals are known close contacts to a confirmed case,’ Clayton said. ‘The remainder, as reflected in the community impact map, are those cases that have been identified with no exposure, or potential exposure.'”

He added: “We have not seen a difference in terms of our overall number of cases related to community spread for other counties at this time.”

This got pushed out of the headlines with a decided quickness once Trump’s “dark and divisive” speech became the front-page news.

COVID-19 at Mount Rushmore never returned, either, because there was no reason for it.

We’re still within the two-week window, of course, but the idea that Trump events are super-spreaders wasn’t borne out at Mount Rushmore. And, for that matter, it’s not as if the governor’s office hadn’t made it clear the vulnerable or those worried about contracting the coronavirus shouldn’t attend.

“If folks are concerned about COVID, they should stay home,” said Maggie Seidel, Noem’s spokeswoman.

I understand that news stokes fear, and we have a lot to be fearful of this year. If the non-Bulwark outlets that picked this up weren’t running stories about COVID risks at Mount Rushmore, they’d be running pieces about 9-year-old girls disfigured by sparklers.

As for The Bulwark, it was another opportunity to get in a jab at the Trumpists. We’re still within that 14-day window — but aside from the possibility of a delayed hit, that part won’t age well.

Meanwhile, those outdoor protests? What protests?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture