Stanford University economists estimate that President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies have resulted in 30,000 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely led to more than 700 deaths overall, according to a paper posted online this weekend.
The research, led by B. Douglas Bernheim, chair of economics at Stanford University, analysed data following 18 Trump rallies held between June 20 and September 22, three of which were indoors.
Bernheim said in an email the work relies on statistical methods to infer causation after an event has occurred.
Infectious disease experts have long suspected that the president’s rallies ahead of the November 3 election might be so-called superspreader events. But so far, scientists have not been able to get a good read on their impact, in part because of a lack of robust contact tracing in many states.
What’s the concern?
In recent months, Trump has held several dozen rallies in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where coronavirus infection rates were already on the rise.
At each event, several thousand people were estimated to have participated. While most of the rallies were held outdoors, video footage show that participants gathered in close proximity and many were not wearing masks, creating a risk of spreading the virus as they cheered their candidate on.
“It’s not a major stretch” to say that large unmasked gatherings are likely to spread the virus, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Adalja said the Stanford paper was “suggestive” of spread from the events, but not definitive because it was not based on an investigation of actual cases. That would help confirm whether participants were exposed to the virus at the event, rather than other places where transmission is rampant.
What do we know?
Minnesota public health officials have attributed four Covid-19 outbreaks and more than 25 cases to Trump rallies held in the state in September and October.
An additional 11 state health departments contacted by Reuters said they had not been able to trace infections to the rallies, although some, including Michigan and Wisconsin, have determined that individual people who later tested positive for Covid-19 were present at Trump campaign events.
What data is needed?
Disease experts say that rigorous contact tracing from one such large event could help arrive at an accurate prediction of how infectious such rallies can be.
But the United States has fallen behind other developed countries in this regard, due to a lack of funding and coordination for contact tracing by the Trump administration.
“The problem is we’ve not done anything to get real numbers,” said Dr Eric Topol, a genomics expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. Instead, it is subject to conjecture and mathematical models.
For years you had a President who apologized for America—now you have a President who is standing up for America! Get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors and GET OUT & VOTE! On 11/3 we must finish the job and Drain the Swamp once and for all! pic.twitter.com/RZzSuwLUSP
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2020
For example, scientists can use gene sequencing to trace minute changes in the genetic code of the virus as it passes from one person to another, allowing them to develop a map of where the virus travels. Such work has been used outside the United States, including in Australia and Hong Kong, to trace Covid-19 outbreaks.
“If we even had one rally where there was definitive tracing, then you could extrapolate. But we’ve had none. Our country has performed as if contact tracing doesn’t exist,” Dr Topol said.
Count slows as final answer remains elusive
With all eyes are on Pennsylvania, the vote count has turned into a slow grind with election officials dealing with damaged ballots, overseas mail-in ballots, and some ballots that are separated for a pending legal fight.
The count continues, but the fat lady is surely warming up the vocal cords.
In Georgia, there will be a recount, but Biden still looks set to flip the state as he slowly grows his lead there.
In Nevada, people who were contacted about irregularities in their ballot have been queuing up to "cure" their vote and ensure it is included in the final count. A path for Trump to overcome Biden's lead there looks very unlikely.
In Arizona, Biden's lead has fallen further, but AP and Fox News have still called the state for Biden.
Here's the current tally:
Pennsylvania – Biden lead 14,500+
Georgia – Biden lead 4,200+
Nevada – Biden lead 20,100+
Arizona – Biden lead 38,000+
With the US network's hesitant to call this race too soon, a definitive projection on who will be the US president on January 20 is still to come. It may even take days.
Joe Biden was due to speak in the coming hours and president Trump is clearly concerned he will try and do what he did on election night and claim victory.
With the atmosphere at the White House described as "chaos" by journalists, it is clear Donald Trump is going down swinging.
Check back at Yahoo News Australia for the latest updates.
Biden lead jumps in Georgia
Joe Biden has grown his lead in Georgia to 4,263 votes, after a new batch from Gwinnett County was added, which was expected to be Biden-friendly.
There is certainly going to be a recount in the state so the bigger the buffer, obviously the better for Biden.
"There have been recounts before, it is rare that they have a significant impact," CNN's Anderson Cooper said.
The New York Times demographic and data analyst, Nate Cohn, said we may not have a final answer for weeks.
"I don't think we're getting a call here for weeks, but given that we have such a good accounting of what's outstanding, it's hard to see Trump winning this without a tabulation error," he tweeted.
Party rolls on in Philly, Biden lead grows
As the count trickles in, Joe Biden is adding to his lead in the state of Pennsylvania. As of the latest count, it now stands slightly higher at 14,281. We should expect a batch of about 35,000 counted ballots to come from Pittsburgh soon.
Meanwhile a colourful array of folks have returned to the Philadelphia Convention Centre where votes are still being counted in that city.
Looks like fun.
We're into the fourth day of this election party. Source: Getty
Residents dancing in the streets
Out in the suburbs of west Philadelphia, they were literally dancing in the streets to the news that Biden had taken the lead in the state earlier.
'I'm Coming Out' by Dianna Ross could be heard blaring over a sound system as residents danced outside theirs homes and passing motorists honked their horns in delight.
The city has voted overwhelmingly for Biden, and it shows.
Trump is 'angry, frustrated and watching TV'
With Joe Biden due to make a prime time appearance in a few hours, the president is not scheduled to front the media currently.
According to CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, he is doing what he does.
Earlier, Collins tweeted there was a "frenzied" atmosphere in the White House and that some staff were already looking for their next job.
"The atmosphere inside the West Wing is being described as a bit frenzied as reality sets in that Biden is only pulling further ahead. Trump's closest aides seem to be working to manage his frustration. Mark Meadows [Trump's chief of staff] is focused on Pennsylvania. And many others are looking for jobs," she tweeted.
Military ballots still outstanding in Georgia
As the president has been alluding to in tweets, there are some outstanding military ballots that could still arrive in Georgia.
Speaking at a press conference a few hours ago, the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger said they will need to arrive by the end of Friday (local time), to be included in the count.
"There are 8,890 military ballots outstanding that will be counted if they were returned by the close of business today," he told the media.
Joe Biden holds a slender lead of about 1500 votes.
Why haven't they called Pennsylvania yet?
A close margin and a large number of outstanding votes are what’s making the Pennsylvania contest too early to call.
The Democratic challenger opened a lead of more than 13,600 votes Friday morning over Trump, from more than 6.5 million votes cast. State law dictates that a recount must be held if the margin between the two candidates is less than 0.5 per cent, which it currently is.
There are roughly 100,000 mail-in ballots still to count, which have so far favoured Biden by a rate of about about three to one.
However, as MSNBC's Steve Kornacki points out, due to potential irregularities it's not certain the totality will get counted. That will impact the lead Biden will build.
Additionally, there are about 100,000 provisional ballots which are the result of people requesting a mail-in ballot but then voting in person without the proper materials. They might not favour Biden in the same way, and might even favour Trump.
If you're interested in understanding this a little better, just watch Steve:
Biden could sweep remaining key states
Here's where we're at with the key vote counts that remain ongoing. Biden now leads in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona.
Again, Arizona has already been called for Biden by AP. Nevada looks certain to go to him but networks are being cautious because its six electoral votes would put him at exactly 270 – the magical winning mark.
So as Biden builds his lead in Pennsylvania, that call could be the tipping point.
There are still Alaska and North Carolina out there. The former will go to Trump, North Carolina is closer a race but we won't know where that count is going until November 12.
Can we call it a blue wave? Source: CNN
Trump team 'backing away' from the president: CNN
According to CNN's Jim Acosta, officials in the White House and the Trump campaign are already eyeing the exits with the writing on the wall.
"Sources close to the White House said some senior officials inside the White House and the campaign are beginning to quietly back away from Trump, in acts of self-preservation, as the returns in Pennsylvania and Georgia indicate the President will not win reelection," he reported.
Trump, however, reportedly wants to dig in and keep firing off legal fights until the electors of the Electoral College system meet in mid December and officially elect the next president.
Update from Trump
The Trump campaign has just posted this statement from the president:
“We believe the American people deserve to have full transparency into all vote counting and election certification, and that this is no longer about any single election.
"This is about the integrity of our entire election process.
"From the beginning we have said that all legal ballots must be counted and all illegal ballots should not be counted, yet we have met resistance to this basic principle by Democrats at every turn.
"We will pursue this process through every aspect of the law to guarantee that the American people have confidence in our government.
"I will never give up fighting for you and our nation.”
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