Wisconsin is listed in the document as the state with the third-highest rate of new cases in the country, with 243 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous week, about 2.6 times greater than the national average. Ahead of Trump’s scheduled rally in Green Bay, the Bellin Health System said Tuesday that its hospital in that city is at 94 percent capacity as covid-19 continues to spike in the community.
“During the intense period of viral surge, large numbers of acutely infected individuals caused exponential growth in infections,” the task force report reads in a section about Wisconsin. “Although young adults are the most affected group currently, spread to other age groups is inevitable.”
The task force report, which is sent to the leaders of all 50 states and D.C., is distributed weekly with specific recommendations for curtailing the spread of the coronavirus, along with progress reports on testing and county-by-county assessments of the prevalence of the virus. The reports are not made public.
The debate over whether Trump should gather large crowds comes as the president faced off against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, for the first presidential debate, offering sharply different opinions on whether public health recommendations against large crowds are justified.
During Tuesday’s debate, Trump defended his events as opportunities for his supporters to gather to hear him and claimed that there has been “no negative effect” from his rallies, even though health officials in Tulsa said a spike in covid-19 cases was “likely” sparked by an indoor Trump gathering in June.
The president also said he was “okay with masks” but falsely claimed that scientists are divided over their value. Health experts have said mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and being careful about crowds currently make up the best defense against the virus.
Biden, by contrast, said Trump has been “totally irresponsible” in the way he has handled social distancing and masks, and in holding large rallies.
“Basically he has been a fool on this,” Biden said of Trump.
“If you could get the crowds, you would have done the same thing,” the president responded. “But you can’t. Nobody can.”
In addition to the White House task force’s guidance, local concern has been growing in Wisconsin about Trump’s planned events, which are scheduled for outdoor airplane hangars without universal mask mandates. Gov. Tony Evers (D) said Tuesday in a news briefing that Trump should either cancel the events or require mask-wearing by everyone who attends.
“This virus is real, and it is devastating our communities, and it will continue to do so until we all get on the same team,” Evers said in a press call about the recent spike in the state’s cases.
He told Wisconsin residents that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing or staying at home, and he asked them to cancel family barbecues, play dates or dinner parties, and make all large gatherings virtual.
Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer, said Tuesday that Wisconsin is “in a