National News

Weather forces Trump to postpone Fayetteville rally

Posted October 29, 2020 1:49 p.m. EDT
Updated October 30, 2020 4:51 p.m. EDT

— High winds in central North Carolina have forced President Donald Trump to cancel a Thursday night rally in Fayetteville.

Trump was set to hold his second rally at the Fayetteville Regional Airport in six weeks, but Tropical Storm Zeta has produced wind gusts topping 50 mph as the system speeds across the Southeast. The rally was rescheduled to 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The president also plans to hold a Sunday afternoon rally in Hickory.

Meanwhile, Gaston County officials said two people who attended Trump's Oct. 21 rally at the Gastonia Municipal Airport have tested positive for coronavirus.

"These cases are not thought to be an indication of spread from the rally at this time, but rather two independent cases among individuals who were in attendance," the county health department said in a statement. "Anyone who was in attendance at the rally is encouraged to monitor their symptoms and seek testing if needed."

Three physicians in North Carolina spoke out Thursday against Trump's large, in-person rallies, saying that he was being intentionally reckless and risky.

"As physicians, we ask President Trump to put public health ahead of politics, prioritize people's safety and stop holding dangerous, crowded rallies in North Carolina," said Dr. Jessica Schorr Saxee, a retired family physician from Charlotte.

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said he hopes the president would "put public safety on the forefront," criticizing the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic.

"You have thousands of people who are not socially distanced, who are not masked, after learning the potency of this virus over the last seven [or] eight months, quite frankly, it's somewhat irresponsible," Colvin said. "We're asking President Trump and his team to please emphasize that we need people in our community wearing masks."

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's has limited attendance at outdoor gatherings to 50 people, but political events are generally exempt.

Cooper and state health officials have repeatedly urged people to wear masks and practice social distancing guidelines when at large events, but Trump's rallies – including Gastonia and one in Lumberton last Saturday – have been marked by crowds packed closely together and few people covering their faces. State officials also have recommended that people get tested for coronavirus after attending such events.

Hundreds of Trump supporters had lined up for the Fayetteville rally, only to file back onto shuttle buses once word came that the event was canceled.

Cindy Marrelli, who drove to Fayetteville from Raleigh, said she plans to return on Monday.

"I love Trump rallies," Marrelli said. "There's nothing better than a Trump rally. I think he's done great. He's hilarious. I like to be with the fans."

Despite the positive tests found after the Gastonia rally, supporters in Fayetteville said they're not worried about getting sick.

"I'm a non-mask-wearer," Marrelli said. "I would wear it if I had to wear it, but I don't feel like I need to wear it. If you're sick, stay home."

Ricky Chandler, who drove from Roxboro for the rally, said he also plans to return on Monday.

"I got my hand sanitizer. I got my mask. Hey, we can walk in Walmart and catch it just as fast as anywhere else," Chandler said.

Trump's campaign has been staging an all-out blitz on North Carolina in the waning days of the campaign. A WRAL News poll released Tuesday shows the president in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the state.

In addition to Trump's rallies, Vice President Mike Pence visited Kinston on Sunday and Greensboro and Wilmington on Tuesday, despite several members of his staff testing positive for the virus over the weekend.

Pence will return to the state on Saturday for rallies in Rocky Mount and Elizabeth City.

Both of Trump's daughters and his daughter-in-law, along with Pence's wife, also have been in North Carolina this week. Eric Trump, the president's second son, is scheduled for two events on Friday.

Biden's campaign has had virtual events in North Carolina this week, as well as events with surrogates, such as the rapper Common and Georgia politician Stacey Abrams. Biden's wife, Jill Biden, is scheduled to be in Charlotte and Greensboro on Saturday, while his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, will hold events in Fayetteville and Goldsboro on Sunday.

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