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2 doctors urge Trump to cancel Muskegon rally

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Two western Michigan doctors called Friday on President Donald Trump to cancel an upcoming campaign rally in Muskegon due to the state's recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

The doctors said rallies like the planned weekend event could spread coronavirus even more and cause deaths across the state.

Top, Dr. Susan Fabric and bottom, Dr. Rob Davidson, call on President Donald Trump to cancel his Muskegon event Saturday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Trump's campaign said Tuesday that he will be in Muskegon for a 5 p.m. event Saturday and talk about supporting law enforcement. The event will be held at FlyBy Air near the Muskegon County Airport, 17 days before the Nov. 3 election.

Rob Davidson, an emergency physician in west Michigan, and Susan Fabrick, a family physician in Muskegon, held a virtual news conference Friday urging the president and his re-election campaign to cancel the rally.

Davidson led the news conference, saying the president and his campaign events have become platforms for spreading medically inaccurate information that puts people's lives at risk.

"I see firsthand the fear in the eyes of my patients and their families, especially in the last few weeks, where we have seen more cases in west Michigan than we have ever seen during the time of this pandemic," Davidson said. "I also see the confusion of some people because they’ve been led to believe that masks don’t matter and that masks don’t work, and that COVID-19 is really nothing and they shouldn’t be afraid. He’s actually mocked people for wearing masks."

Fabrick, a family medicine doctor in Muskegon County for 26 years, said, “Despite the president’s false claims that masks don’t stop COVID-19, we know the opposite is true.”

She said the president has spread false claims that he and anyone who has had COVID-19 is immune.

“The president's reckless disregard for facts and other people’s health is the threat to public safety and public health. The data is clear in Muskegon County and surrounding counties that cases have shot up in recent days," she said. "Our goal was to keep the number of active cases under 200. Over the last few weeks, we’ve gone up to 280. Now we have over 20 people in the hospital. 

In Kent and Ottawa counties, the number of cases has gone up from last week with sharp spikes in their 14-day average. Newaygo County active coronavirus cases have quadrupled in the last 14 days and Oceana County, immediately north of Muskegon County, has Lower Michigan's highest rate of COVID-19 cases outside of Wayne County, Fabrick said.

"More than 219,000 Americans have already died with about 1,000 people dying every day," she said. "So when President Trump falsely claims COVID-19 is disappearing, he's clearly not telling American's the truth and that's dangerous."

Davidson, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, a doctors' organization that advocates for expanded health care coverage, is no stranger to the Trump Administration. 

The group tracked hundreds of protesters’ cellphones from two spring rallies at the Michigan Capitol in a bid to determine the potential spread of COVID-19 from the event. The move drew the ire of demonstrators, who had gathered to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 emergency orders, and raised questions about privacy.

However, the group said the cellphones were anonymous and showed that protesters at one rally traveled back to areas throughout the state, including west Michigan, Metro Detroit, northern Michigan and the Indiana border after the event and created a high risk of spreading the virus.

Davidson, a Democratic former congressional candidate, has been vocal about the nation's need to increase testing for COVID-19 and for health experts, not politicians, to drive the country's response to the pandemic. He anticipates the rally could bring thousands of people and if only 5% are infected, that's enough for a super-spreader event, he said.

"I have enough challenges with a growing number of patients who are sick and asking me if they’re going to make it," he said. "I shouldn’t have to argue with them about wearing a mask with them or their visitors or family members. President Trump needs to cancel this rally."

In February, a confrontation between Davidson and Vice President Mike Pence was captured on video and went viral on social media after the doctor asked him about possible cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

President Donald Trump waves as he arrives for a campaign rally at MBS International Airport, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Freeland, Mich.

In addition to Trump's planned appearance Saturday, former vice president Joe Biden returned to Michigan Friday, first speaking in a gymnasium at the Beech Woods Recreation Center in Southfield, then heading to Detroit to encourage voter participation.

On Thursday, Michigan set a new daily record for reported coronavirus cases with 2,030. Some of the COVID-19 cases disclosed Thursday were from the prior day and their reporting had been delayed because of a processing problem, but the seven-day average for new cases in Michigan reached its highest point since early April.

The state also topped 2,000 new cases on Friday and 14 additional deaths.

The state's total number of cases reached 143,106 Friday and 6,987 Michigan residents have died from the virus. As of Thursday, 1,017 adults were hospitalized with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan, up 80% from 564 hospitalizations reported a month earlier.

The Trump Victory campaign and Michigan Republican Party were not immediately available Friday for comment.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_