GASTON COUNTY, NC — People who attended President Donald Trump's campaign rally last week in Gaston County are being urged to monitor their symptoms and seek testing if needed after positive cases of the coronavirus were traced back to the event.
Two people who attended the Oct. 21 rally at the Gastonia Municipal Airport tested positive, according to the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services.
"These cases are not thought to be an indication of spread from the rally at this time, but rather two independent case among individuals who were in attendance," county health officials said in a statement Thursday.
County health officials said they made the public announcement because the large number of attendees created challenges for contact tracing.
"Routine case investigation and contact tracing protocols are being followed," county health officials said. "Other places these individuals have been and other close contacts to these individuals are being notified directly by public health staff. Because of the large number of potential contacts from the rally, and the inability to alert them directly, the community is being notified so they can assess their own risk and take appropriate actions."
On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper took aim at political events drawing large crowds while not encouraging social distancing and mask wearing.
“I’m really concerned about campaigns that fly in all over the place, and come into North Carolina, hold these large events, gathering a lot of people together, also bringing people from out of state, and then leaving,” Cooper said, the Gaston Gazette reported.
“And we know, two to three weeks later, oftentimes you see spread that occurs, infections that occur,” he said. “And we are particularly concerned about our rural areas, where hospitals are a little bit thinner, and it’s more difficult for them to be able to accept a lot of patients.”
At the time of the Trump rally, the county reported a spike in COVID-19 cases where daily coronavirus case counts were double what they were in August, and hospitalizations that had tripled in a month.
Earlier this month, Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris warned that spikes in the spread of the COVID-19 virus in surrounding counties, such as Gaston County, were starting to impact Charlotte hospitals. "We are hearing that hospitals in the western part of the state are overwhelmed, and they are diverting patients to the Charlotte area and the Winston-Salem area," Harris said.