DULUTH — Following news of President Donald Trump's COVID-19 diagnoses after his campaign rally Wednesday, Sept. 30, in Duluth, Mayor Emily Larson encouraged people who attended the event to wear a mask, visit a health care provider to get tested or get a free saliva test at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
“The news of anyone contracting COVID-19 is scary and unsettling," Larson said in a statement. "Do everything you can to self-isolate and adhere to Minnesota Department of Health and CDC guidelines to keep yourselves and those around you safe. I truly wish the president, first lady, and anyone else who has been diagnosed with a full and speedy recovery.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber announced Friday afternoon that he'd tested negative for COVID-19 following the announcement that the president and first lady Melania Trump had contracted the virus.
Stauber, who represents Minnesota's 8th Congressional District, traveled to Duluth on Air Force One with the president.
Friday morning, the Office of the Attending Physician deemed Stauber to be at "low-risk" for having contracted the virus, according to the congressman's press secretary. He was advised to continue his congressional duties as long as he wore a mask and practiced social distancing.
Before traveling with the president, Stauber said he tested negative for COVID-19.
Duluth police officers and a few members of the Duluth Fire Department were on duty at Wednesday's rally. The city of Duluth is in the process of determining if any staff were exposed Wednesday night, said public information officer Kate Van Daele.
In another statement, St. Louis County Public Health officials echoed the mayor's safety precaution calls and offered detailed guidance for those who attended the event.
St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said that since people who are within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes have the highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19, the likelihood of attendees having been exposed through the president is "fairly minimal."
"However, with an estimated attendance of at least 3,000 people at the rally, there's a pretty good likelihood that some of the attendees had the virus and were contagious, so as we would with any event, we strongly encourage participants to quarantine, monitor themselves for symptoms and consider getting tested," Westbrook said.
Those with symptoms should get tested right away. Those who aren't exhibiting symptoms should still get tested but not until five to seven days after the event. Those who test negative should get tested again around 12 days after the event. Anyone with direct contact to the president should quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results.
Community transmission of COVID-19 was high in St. Louis County prior to the rally, the Minnesota Department said in a news release, meaning people attending the rally could have been infectious without realizing it.
Deputies with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office assisted with the rally's security. They were not in close contact with the president and those traveling with him, according to the county.
Approximately 3,000 were estimated to have attended the rally at the Duluth International Airport despite the state's emergency health measures to still cap gatherings off at 250 people, even when outdoors. There was little physical distancing.
At one point, the president could be seen tossing out at least a half-dozen hats to attendees and leaning over the stage talking to supporters. He was more than 6 feet away from people, but not wearing a mask.
About 150 loggers sat in the bleachers behind Trump and three of their logging trucks, draped in campaign signs, lined the event’s border. But none of the loggers had direct contact with Trump or his staff, according to Scott Dane, executive director of the Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota.
“We’re not concerned,” Dane said. “And it’s unfortunate, but that’s life. I’m sure (Trump will) do well and get over this.”
Dane added that almost all the attendees in the bleachers were wearing masks.
Most sitting off camera and in the event’s general admission seating, however, did not wear masks.
While the event was held at the Monaco Air facility, the private air service operation at Duluth International Airport, the Duluth Airport Authority, did weigh in ahead of the event, asking that the Trump campaign comply with Minnesota COVID-19 executive orders, which generally ban any gatherings larger than 250 people.
“The entire team at the Duluth Airport Authority takes the state of Minnesota COVID-19 state mandates seriously, both inside our terminal and throughout our airfield,’’ Natalie Peterson, director of communications and marketing for the airport authority, said in a statement Friday morning. “It was made clear to the Trump campaign, in the lead-up to the event, that compliance with the state of Minnesota’s current public health executive orders was an expectation of the DAA.”
Peterson did not immediately respond to questions regarding what action, if any, the authority took to ensure compliance with state guidelines.
Gov. Tim Walz previously sent a letter to both the Trump and Joe Biden campaigns asking them to adhere to state guidelines for safe campaign gatherings when in the state. Health officials have acknowledged Trump's team appeared to disregard those suggestions in Bemidji, but the agency has not acknowledged the potential for any potential enforcement action.