Republicans shrug off warnings that 20,000 more Americans could die this month


It's setting an example that puts their own base at risk.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the United States, top Republicans are still ignoring basic safety precautions — and are putting their own supporters at risk in the process.

On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to The Villages, Florida — the country's largest retirement community — to stump for Donald Trump's reelection campaign.

"It is nice to be back in Trump country," Pence told a densely packed crowd, many of whom were not wearing face masks.

While Pence has maintained that he's tested negative for the virus, medical professionals have warned that he's still at risk, given the high number of infections originating from the White House.

Trump himself is scheduled to campaign in Florida on Monday, despite testing positive for the virus.

"See you in Sanford, Florida, tonight for a Big Rally," Trump tweeted Monday morning. "Covered Live on @OANN, @newsmax and @cspan. Enjoy!!!"

Health officials have warned that October will see a large uptick in COVID-19 deaths.

"From the infections that have already occurred, we will see something like 20,000 deaths by the end of the month," Tom Frieden, who served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama, told CNN on Sunday.

Frieden added that the 20,000 additional deaths are "inevitable."

"Any time we ignore, minimize, or underestimate this virus, we do so at our peril and the peril of people whose lives depend on us," Frieden said during CNN's "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears" town hall on Sunday night.

At the same event, Richard Besser, who served as CDC director before Frieden, pleaded with Americans to follow safety guidelines.

"If we follow the lead of public health, if we follow the lead of CDC and do the things that are working around the globe, in terms of wearing masks and social distancing and washing hands and investigating cases — ensuring people have what they need to isolate and quarantine — that we can have a very different trajectory and we can get this in control," Besser said.

Trump and Pence aren't the only prominent Republicans who have stubbornly refused to follow basic public health advice. On Monday, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) did not wear masks for the first day of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) attended the hearing in person, despite having tested positive for the virus 10 days earlier.

The GOP leadership's apparent disdain for the government's own safety guidelines has trickled down to state lawmakers. Republicans in Michigan vehemently opposed Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's mask mandate.

"We need to now transition from a public health emergency to managing and learning to live with this virus," Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said earlier this month. "I think we can do that without being under a state of emergency, and that's my strong, strong feelings."

Rep. Louie Golmert (R-TX) openly wondered if he'd gotten sick because he wore a mask after he tested positive for the virus over the summer. In July, Herman Cain — the businessman, former presidential candidate, and prominent Trump supporter — fell ill and died from the virus. One month earlier, Cain had attended Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He didn't wear a mask at the event.

In the past six months — as the coronavirus has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans — Trump has held many campaign events with few masks in sight. After he was discharged from the Walter Reed Medical Center on Oct. 5, Trump staged a photo-op on the White House's Truman Balcony. Standing on the balcony, posing for the cameras, Trump took off his mask and shoved it in his pocket.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.