Two attendees of President Donald Trump’s rally at Gastonia Municipal Airport on Oct. 21 have tested positive for COVID-19, Gaston County’s health department announced Thursday.
The county said that the cases are believed to be independent from one another, and not an indication of spread at the rally.
Contact tracing for the individuals is underway, the county said. Gaston County made the announcement “because of the large number of potential contacts from the rally, and the inability to alert them directly,” according to the release from county spokesman Adam Gaub.
Those who attended the rally were encouraged to monitor their symptoms and get tested if needed. Both positive tests occurred Oct. 26. Brandon Goldner, a reporter at Charlotte’s NBC affiliate, WCNC, said on Twitter that he is one of the two positive cases.
The rally brought an estimated 15,000 people to the airfield. While attendees were asked to wear masks upon entering the event, many took them off once inside, including police officers, firefighters and other officials.
A growing pandemic
The disclosure comes as daily reports of new coronavirus cases across the state have been trending up. On Thursday, North Carolina hit a record high of 2,885 new coronavirus cases reported in a single day.
Local numbers have been rising too, with Mecklenburg County this week hitting its highest seven-day average of new daily cases since early August.
Trump, unlike his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been holding traditional large rallies in swing states across the country.
Recently, he has visited Gastonia, Fayetteville and Lumberton in North Carolina. While the rallies are outdoors, which public health experts say reduces spread of the virus, many attendees often are not wearing face masks and they’re not socially distanced.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The campaign was scheduled to host a rally in Fayetteville Thursday evening, but the event was pushed back to Monday due to high winds.
The potential public health impact of hosting large political rallies in the middle of a pandemic are a concern for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other state officials.
“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 in people from out of state, and then leaving,” Cooper said at a Wednesday press conference.
“And we know two to three weeks later. Oftentimes, you see spread that occurs, infections that occur,” he said.
Most Democratic campaigns, including Cooper’s ongoing re-election bid, have eschewed large rallies in favor of smaller, distanced events with rigorous enforcement of mask-wearing.
A person who attended an October campaign rally in Burnsville, suspected to be Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Oct. 15 rally in the town, tested positive for COVID-19, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. Forest is challenging Cooper for re-election.
When the Republican National Convention was hosted in Charlotte in August, four people tested positive for the virus upon arriving at the event and were sent home. A report from convention officials said no one contracted the virus at the event.
Staff writer Hannah Smoot contributed to this report.