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President Donald Trump apparently wanted to come to Tampa at the end of the month for a campaign rally, but probably won’t anymore because of fears about the novel coronavirus.
“I think we’ll probably not do it because people would say it’s better to not do,” Trump said Thursday at the White House. “We need a little separation until such time as it goes away. It’s going to go away.”
He later boasted about the size of his rallies, then added: “No, I’m not going to do it if I think it’s going to be negative at all, if we haven’t made that turn yet. We’ll make the turn. The question is when and the questions is how many people will die and I don’t want people dying. That’s what I’m all about.”
He then suggested the decision wasn’t final. The rally was planned for March 25.
The remarks came in a free-wheeling 20 minute news conference with Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in which Trump tried to mitigate the confusion and concern over the administration’s new travel ban and other coronavirus response measures he announced in his national address last night.
The Tampa event was not yet announced, but Trump claimed anyway that it was “sold out” and there were “over 100,000 requests for tickets.” According to the New York Times, Trump’s aides had been trying to persuade the president not to move ahead with the Florida event because of worries of contagion.
Just moments after Trump’s remarks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for all mass gatherings to be postponed to limit the spread of the disease. Though DeSantis’ office has not defined “mass gathering,” Trump’s rallies, often attended by thousands of people, would surely qualify.
Trump’s campaign events are usually held in the same large arenas used by the professional sports teams that have postponed or canceled games due to the fast-spreading virus.
Trump told reporters that he was canceling “four or five” rallies around the country, including ones in Las Vegas and Reno. A “Catholics for Trump” event in Milwaukee was also nixed, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“We do need separation for a period of time,” he said.
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