Minnesota Democrats are slamming Republicans for their actions on the campaign trail, accusing the GOP of putting people at risk of COVID-19 because they're ignoring safety precautions, calling their actions "reckless and dangerous."
DFLers criticized Republicans for holding in-person, indoor campaign events where the majority of people are not wearing masks and are standing close together in crowds. Meanwhile, Democrats are mostly campaigning via remote, online events.
“The plain truth here is that Minnesota Republicans and the Trump campaign are putting people’s lives at risk to win political campaigns,” DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said during a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday.
"The Minnesota Republican Party’s unsafe events could be spreading COVID-19 across our state, landing people in the hospital, and even killing them. If Minnesota Republican events have not caused serious harm, it is only because their fellow Minnesotans are taking this threat seriously and making the sacrifices necessary to save lives."
Martin mentioned the statewide Women for Trump bus tour that made stops in several cities across the state Aug. 18-19, criticizing GOP Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan specifically for being among the maskless people at the event and for not social distancing.
Other attendees at indoor events where there's a lack of social distancing and face masks aren't being worn by all in attendance include Senate candidate Jason Lewis, 2nd District candidate Tyler Kistner, and 7th District candidate Michelle Fischbach.
“This is the perfect storm of everything people shouldn't do: going from place to place with no knowledge of whether or not you're sick and meeting with people,” Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during President Obama's presidency, said.
He added. “To me, people's lives are more important to people's votes. I think I would ask that of your elected representatives in your candidates: is my life more important than putting you in office? And is your behavior at suggesting that? So I just would say to anybody who doesn't hold that value: it's not too late to change because people are going to live or die by your decisions.”
Advice for campaign events, Republican response
The CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health and other health officials recommend people wear face masks when out in public – especially whenever physical distancing can be difficult to maintain. Minnesota also has a statewide mask mandate in place that requires face masks be worn in indoor public spaces.
"Wearing a mask is important. I think social distancing is important and I would also prioritize outdoor events. I think if you're able to do all three of those things: masks, social distancing, and outdoors, I think that's relatively safe and I would feel comfortable in that situation for someone who is not older or someone without underlying health conditions," Dr. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, said during Wednesday's news conference.
Following the DFL's news conference, the state Republican Party held its own news conference. The Pioneer Press said Chairwomen Carnahan changed the subject, saying Democrats failed to prevent the riots and looting in Minnesota and across the nation this summer.
Carnahan did says that the party provides masks and encourages social distancing at its events, but doesn't require them, adding: "It’s an individual issue, not a partisan issue."
"But indoors, maskless, close-quarters, those are all recipes for transmission"
While cases have been trending upwards again since Minnesota's face mask mandate went into effect on July 25, they have not been rising at the rate seen in some neighboring states without mask mandates, namely Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
There has also been concern raised by, among others, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Deborah Birx, that people in rural areas of Minnesota are not following COVID-19 safety guidelines including social distancing as well as those in cities.
This is borne out by recent case spikes in areas of Minnesota outside of Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
BMTN has reached out to the state Republican Party for further comment.