By Jeff Mason
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold a campaign rally indoors on Sunday despite public health professionals’ warnings against large indoor gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, a Republican, has faced criticism for his response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 193,000 people in the United States. He played down the virus in its early stages and has alternately embraced and disregarded advice from public health experts, who encourage mask-wearing and maintaining social distance to prevent the virus’ spread.
The president’s campaign portrayed the rally in Henderson, Nevada, as an opportunity for his supporters to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the president of the United States,” spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.
Participants will have their temperatures checked before entering and will be given a mask that they will be encouraged to wear, the campaign said.
Trump, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in national polls and in Nevada, has increased the frequency of his rallies in recent weeks, but he has been holding them at outdoor venues or in large open airplane hangars to help minimize risk.
Biden, a former vice president, has criticized Trump sharply for ignoring health guidelines with his campaign events and promised a comprehensive strategy to fight the pandemic if he succeeds Trump in the White House.
Trump is in the middle of a Western swing that will include a campaign stop in Arizona and a visit to California to be briefed about the wildfires that are devastating the West Coast.
Trump has knocked Biden for doing fewer events and traveling less than he in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney)