New Hampshire Democrats greeted news of President Trump’s planned Saturday visit to Portsmouth with a demand: Mandate masks now. Everyone attending Trump’s rally must be required by Gov. Chris Sununu to wear a face mask.
Team Trump’s response: Where were these demands when these same Democrats were attending Black Lives Matter rallies across the state?
It didn’t take the two major Democratic candidates for governor long to throw down on the mask issue, or to link it back to their real target, Gov. Sununu.
“I’m calling on Gov. Chris Sununu to issue an order requiring social distancing and masks at the Portsmouth Trump rally,” state Sen. Dan Feltes tweeted Monday morning. “After Trump’s Tulsa rally, there was a sharp uptick in COVID cases. The public health of Granite Staters must take priority over politics.”
“Where is Gov. Chris Sununu?” Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky demanded via Twitter, adding:
“If Trump & Sununu refuse to put public health first, we must address out of state attendee risk, require masks, and ensure social distancing.”
NHJournal asked Volinsky what he meant by “addressing out of state attendee risk:” ID checks? Mandatory testing? Turning away out-of-state vehicles? He declined to respond.
Sununu released a statement Monday announcing he would be treating Trump’s event the same way he’s treated other political gatherings since the COVID-19 crisis began.
“As Governor, I will always welcome the President of the United States to New Hampshire. I am pleased to see the campaign will be handing out face masks and hand sanitizer to all attendees, as has been true at all public gatherings in NH where social distancing is hard to maintain. It is imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks,” Sununu said.
The statement from the governor’s office noted that “from the outset of this pandemic, the State has not stopped or prevented individuals from peacefully assembling, including marches led by Black Lives Matter and protests from Reopen NH.
“The Governor’s schedule is still being finalized. In the past, the Governor has greeted the President upon arrival at the airport. If the Governor greets the President at the airport, he will be wearing a mask,” according to the statement.
The Trump campaign responded to the Democrats’ complaints more aggressively, calling out what they perceive as hypocrisy from people demanding masks at Trump rallies just weeks after attending Black Lives Matter rallies with no mask mandate.
“When marauders destroy businesses and tear down statues, they don’t need masks. There is no concern about the spread of COVID-19,” Trump campaign strategist Corey Lewandowski told NHJournal. “But when Americans want to see the leader of the free world, a mask is a must? Hypocrites.
“One place the left doesn’t demand a mask is Joe Biden’s basement — where he remains hiding alone,” Lewandowski said.
Asked about the charge of hypocrisy, Feltes spokesperson Emma Sand told NHJournal:
“This will be by far the largest event and gathering since COVID-19 hit New Hampshire, and whether Gov. Sununu actually does a public health order, like he did for the upcoming NASCAR race, is the issue. At a minimum, he should issue a public health order for this event to protect lives and prevent an uptick in COVID-19 cases, not be cowed by Trump to fail to do his job”
Volinsky declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the debate rages over whether protests and political rallies have had a significant impact on COVID-19’s trajectory in recent weeks.
Despite the assumptions by Feltes and others, new positive tests in Oklahoma rose about 350 percent from June 1 until Trump’s rally on June 20, then by just 75 percent between rally day and July 4. In Tulsa County, officials said last week it was too early to make a determination about the impact of the Trump rally, and that the increased infections thus far had been traced to smaller gatherings at bars, gyms, and restaurants.
Meanwhile, supporters of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer have been pushing back for weeks against claims their gatherings created a risk of significant spread. But in recent days, the mayors of Los Angeles and Miami have both acknowledged these rallies likely played some role in the recent increase in cases.
And in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office revealed they instructed contact tracers tracking positive COVID tests not to ask if the infected person had attended a BLM protest.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe while respecting individual privacy,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Avery Cohen.
Team Trump tells NHJournal that Granite Staters are “ecstatic” to welcome President Trump back to New Hampshire.
“While encouraging safety measures for attendees, Saturday will be a celebration of President Trump’s ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’ agenda, reminding voters that he is the only leader who can bring about the great American comeback,” said RNC spokesperson Nina McLaughlin. “The contrast between President Trump fighting for Granite Staters and Joe Biden hiding from them in his basement bunker couldn’t be clearer.”