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As COVID-19 cases rise, NC doctors call on Trump to cancel Greenville rally

As Greenville prepares for President Donald Trump's Thursday visit, some leaders are concerned about virus spread.

Posted Updated

Jessica Patrick
, WRAL multiplatform producer
GREENVILLE, N.C. — On Thursday, the same day Sen. Kamala Harris canceled two scheduled North Carolina appearances, doctors called on the president to reconsider his Greenville rally.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the Pitt-Greenville Airport at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Dr. Jessica Schorr Saxe, a family physician in Charlotte, and a group of other doctors are urging him to cancel.

According to Saxe, recent daily COVID-19 hospitalization totals in North Carolina are the highest they’ve been since August, and 7.1% of COVID-19 tests on Sunday were positive, higher than the 5% state officials set as a target.

The president battled COVID-19 himself in early October but recovered quickly after being hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received an experimental antibody cocktail still in clinical trials.

"If [people] get sick at his rallies, there is no guarantee they will get the same experimental treatments he did," Saxe said. "And of course, many Americans still have no health coverage at all."

Saxe said there is evidence that Trump rallies are superspreader events, adding some led to outbreaks and even a death.

"We've seen that Trump's campaign rallies bring together many people who choose not to stay 6 feet apart or wear a mask," she said. "This directly contradicts the recommendations of the CDC, and we've also seen that Trump's rallies have caused COVID-19 outbreaks despite Trump's current claim."

Saxe said health officials have blamed Trump's June indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a surge of positive cases in the state. She said that rally was also linked to the death of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who attended the event.

WITN reports Greenville leaders are also concerned about the president's visit, which is expected to draw large crowds.

Pitt County Health Director Dr. John Silvernail said, “Anytime you bring people together, there’s potential for COVID or any other communicable disease.”

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources, there are over 5,000 COVID-19 cases in Pitt County and 35 deaths.

Doors to the event will open at 10 a.m. Attendees will be given a temperature check and masks, but DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said large gatherings of any kind are a concern.

“There are certain events that folks have been to whether they're political rallies or other large gatherings, with folks who are close together and not wearing masks where this virus spreads," Cohen said.

The rally will be Trump's first in North Carolina since his COVID-19 treatment.

Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, was in North Carolina on Wednesday to host an event in Wilmington on Wednesday, and his two sons were in the state last week.