Trump’s Likely Superspreader Rally Busts COVID Curfew in Florida
Trump-loving local mayor had imposed a midnight curfew to try and protect his citizens from the pandemic—the president blew right through it.
A lone, unmasked Trump campaign volunteer had been tasked with scanning foreheads using an electronic thermometer. By 10 p.m. she was being overwhelmed by the waves of Trumpers arriving to see the president. Another volunteer was handing out red Make America Great Again hats from a cardboard box. But no one was handing out face coverings to the maskless.
Hundreds of Donald Trump supporters funneled through a canopied entrance set up outside a hangar at Opa-Locka Executive Airport near Miami, Florida, for the final stop of a marathon five-state tour the president undertook on Sunday.
Nearby, Mayra Joli, the Miami woman who went viral for nodding along to Trump's answers during his NBC town hall in her city last month, was posing for selfies with some supporters when she pointed out the obvious to The Daily Beast. There was no way Trump’s first Miami-area rally since the coronavirus pandemic began would end by a midnight curfew imposed by presidential ally, U.S. congressional candidate and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
“Of course this is going past midnight,” Joli said. “President Trump is going to speak at 11:30. Even if he speaks for just 15 minutes, it is going to take more than an hour for everybody to get back home. If they try to enforce it, they have another thing coming. They cannot infringe on the people’s liberty.”
Sure enough, Trump was on Miami time. The White House initially bumped up the president’s Opa-Locka schedule from 11:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and had him departing South Florida at 12:20 a.m. In reality, Air Force One touched down roughly 15 minutes before midnight. And Trump was still jawing at the crowd 30 minutes past midnight, stopping briefly to soak in the crowd’s chants for him to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait ‘til a little bit after the election, please,” Trump said. “I appreciate the advice.”
In recent days, Fauci has amplified his criticisms of the White House’s strategy to falsely claim the U.S. is rounding the corner on the pandemic when the rate of new cases is reaching record new levels and community spread across the country is surging. Florida, which was an epicenter over the summer, is beginning to experience another uptick in new cases as infectious disease experts warn the state’s next surge is coming later this month after Trump’s Florida BFF, Gov. Ron DeSantis, completely reopened the state for business in late September. Miami-Dade, where the Opa-Locka rally was held, and neighboring Broward County accounted for more than a third of the 4,865 new cases reported by the Florida Department of Health on Sunday, according to the Miami Herald.
Despite the sobering statistics, Trump and his campaign made a mockery of Miami-Dade’s midnight curfew while undermining Gimenez, who imposed it in July as one of the emergency measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 by prohibiting a community accustomed to late-night socializing and partying from doing just that. Last month, a Miami-Dade judge struck down the curfew after local strip club Tootsie’s Cabaret sued the county, alleging the curfew violated their employees’ constitutional rights to earn a living. But the Third District Court of Appeal issued a stay while it considers an appeal from Miami-Dade County.
Ahead of the rally, Trump’s opponent and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denounced the rally in a written statement. “President Trump will hold another one of his potential super-spreader rallies in Florida tonight, putting his supporters and Floridians they come into contact with in danger,” Biden said. “This rally isn’t for Floridians; it’s to fuel his own ego, with no regard for the issues working Floridians face every day.”
Yet, the Trump re-election campaign secured a First Amendment permit through the Miami-Dade Aviation Department to hold the late-night rally that attracted thousands of Trump supporters. The event took place two days after the release of a Stanford University study that concluded the president’s campaign rallies may have caused 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 700 deaths. Infectious disease experts in the Sunshine State warned the rally was a bad idea given Florida is still adjusting to the reopening of businesses and schools.
In an Oct. 30 phone interview, Florida International University epidemiologist Dr. Mary Jo Trepka said Miami-Dade County reported 870 new cases on Friday. “That’s very high,” Trepka said. “We’ve had over 500 cases a day since Oct. 24. We really can’t afford to have people in large groups even when they are outdoors. With places and schools reopening, we want to keep the positivity rate as low as possible.”
The same day, Dr. Marissa Levine, an infectious disease professor at the University of South Florida, noted video footage and photographs of Trump rallies around the country show most attendees are not socially distancing and not wearing facial coverings while being crammed together. “I really think we are in this fragile place in Florida,” Levine told The Daily Beast. “[Holding a rally] doesn’t give the public a good message. In fact, it sends the opposite message.”
Gimenez, the Miami-Dade mayor who’s hitched his bid for a congressional seat by embracing Trumpism, has caught flak among local business owners and fellow Republicans for being more aggressive in curbing coronavirus spread than DeSantis. He did not respond to text messages seeking comment, but a mayor’s spokesperson provided The Daily Beast with documents showing the Republican National Committee obtained its First Amendment permit from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, which oversees the Opa-Locka airport, a facility that mostly caters to private jets and small cargo planes.
An Oct. 30 aviation department letter states the campaign had use of an Opa-Locka airfield until 2 a.m. on Nov. 2, ostensibly to allow time for the staging area to be dismantled. While the correspondence doesn’t explicitly mention the midnight curfew, the letter says the campaign was required to adhere to Miami-Dade’s emergency order outlining the county’s COVID-19 safety measures, which includes abiding by the curfew and requiring people to wear facial coverings.
On Sunday afternoon, Gimenez’s twitter account tweeted that he had confirmed with the RNC that the rally was expected to end before midnight, but added that the county would be flexible in letting people travel home safely from the event if it ran past 12 a.m. Later in the evening, Gimenez joined Florida Republicans DeSantis and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott as the president’s opening acts. While Gimenez railed against the threat of socialism taking over America and encouraged attendees to go out and vote, the crowd booed the mayor and shouted, “Open up!” When Trump took the stage, he gave the mayor a shout-out while butchering the pronunciation of Gimenez.
At the rally, Trump supporters dismissively waved away any concerns about showing up to a possible superspreader event. “I am not afraid of the coronavirus,”Jorge Perez-Hernandez told The Daily Beast. “That’s over.”
The 33-year-old Cuban American hung out of the passenger side window of a Ford F150 truck carrying three more Trump supporters. A giant blue Trump-Pence flag flapped from the truck’s bed. Perez-Hernandez, who early voted on Saturday for the first time since becoming a U.S. citizen two years ago, said he supports Trump because he hates communism as much as Cubans do.
He also repeated one of the president’s false claims about doctors profiting from the coronavirus pandemic. “The hospitals are messing with the numbers,” Perez-Hernandez said. “They are reporting more coronavirus cases than there really are so they can charge the government more money.”
David Cohen, a Trump voter who drove over an hour from West Palm Beach, said the curfew was being used to control people. “You gotta have freedom,” Cohen said. “Like Trump says, you can’t have a cure that is worse than the disease.”
Cohen then volunteered a wild conspiracy theory that he said was much worse than enforcing a curfew. He claimed that Biden and the Democrats are already laying the groundwork to upend the country on election night following a Trump victory. “They are going to arm the Black Lives Matters activists and antifa, and tell them what cities to go to,” Cohen said. “Everybody needs to be on their game.”
Meanwhile, Trump super-fan Mayra Joli said it didn’t matter that new coronavirus cases are being traced back to the president’s rallies. “So what,” she said. “We are not going to stop living over the fear of dying.”
12:30 a.m. had come and gone, Trump was still speaking.