Donald Trump’s insistence on holding a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore despite warnings from public health experts about the dangers of such an event during a pandemic shows the “behavior of a cult leader,” an expert in infectious disease says.
Trump has moved forward with a controversial fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, an event expected to attract thousands of people but with no requirements for wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Public health experts said that such large gatherings are a danger, especially as the coronavirus has been spreading fast in many hotspots across the country and the number of daily cases in the U.S. has hit an all-time high.
In an appearance on CNN on Friday, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist Celine Gounder said that she was “highly concerned” about the event and called it “beyond irresponsible” of Trump to go forward with it. She continued to attack the president, calling him out for politicizing the ideas of wearing masks and taking proper precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is the behavior of a cult leader who is jumping off the cliff, except he’s jumping off into a safety net where he has protections around him. People around him are being tested. He’s being tested on a regular basis. While he asks his followers to jump off a cliff into nothing,” she said, via The Hill. “I mean, this is extremely dangerous behavior and unfortunately, this has become so politicized where you abide by public health and scientific recommendations on the basis of your political beliefs not based on the science. And people are really going to be harmed as a result of this.”
Trump has been under fire for his insistence on holding large events, including campaign rallies, despite warnings against such gatherings. His rally last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also did not require social distancing, and many of the supporters who attended did not wear masks.
There have already been a number of positive coronavirus cases for individuals who attended the rally, including a reporter who tested positive just days after covering the event. Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain also tested positive for coronavirus and was hospitalized in Atlanta just days after attending Trump’s rally, where he was photographed not wearing a mask.
Trump himself has been vocally opposed to the idea of wearing a mask, saying he would likely not wear one, though in recent days has appeared to soften his stance and said he might consider doing so.