WASHINGTON: There are no crowds at Disneyland, still shut down by the coronavirus. Fewer fans attended the World Series this year than at any time in the past century. Big concerts stand cancelled.
But it's a different story in Trumpland. Thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters regularly cram together at campaign rallies around the country - masks optional and social distancing frowned upon.
Trump rallies are among the nation's biggest events being held in defiance of crowd restrictions designed to stop the virus from spreading. This at a time when public health experts are advising people to think twice even about inviting many guests for Thanksgiving dinner.
Some states have fined venues that host Trump rallies for violating caps on crowd size. But the rallies continue - even as the U.S. sees cases spike, especially in the Midwest and the Plains. The US set a new record for a single day spike of COVID-19, with almost 90,000 new cases registered on Thursday, according to the data from John Hopkins University.
According to a recent analysis from the Washington School of Medicine, about 2,250 Americans could be dying every day from COVID-19 by the middle of January. But the crowds keep turning out for Trump.
Ysabel Benejam, 69, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, drove about 90 minutes to Lansing and waited more than four hours in rainy, near-freezing temperatures to see Trump on Tuesday. "I'm not afraid at all," said Benejam, wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and a mask emblazoned with "Trump 2020."
Democrat Joe Biden, in contrast, has shunned rallies and instead holds online and drive-in events where people honk their horns to show support. He calls the Trump rallies "super-spreader events" and says he's listening to the warnings of public health experts.
Mask use is spotty. Some people cover their mouths but not their noses. And by the end of Trump's hour-plus speeches, some masks are slung low around people's chins. The campaign managers make it a point to ask people sitting behind Trump - and likely to be captured on camera - to wear masks, but they don't always comply.
Pete Kingsley, 80, of Strasburg, Pennsylvania, was not wearing a mask as he approached the security line at Trump's rally Monday in Lititz. He said he believes the virus is being hyped to hurt Trump's chance of re-election and to "bash the economy - destroy it."
Not all locals are, however, happy to have Trump come to town.
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