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ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia physicians today criticized Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for holding crowded, mostly maskless campaign rallies, even indoors, as the COVID-19 pandemic sickens a record number of people this week and hospitalizations surge. The physicians asked Sens. Loeffler and Perdue to cancel crowded campaign rallies for their reelection and do what their opponents in the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff are doing if they want to hold in-person events: holding outdoor, socially distanced events where attendees wear masks.
“Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue’s campaign rallies, with huge crowds, no masks and no social distancing, threaten to sicken people and spread more pain and suffering across Georgia,” said Dr. Henry Kahn, a retired primary care physician, general internist and epidemiologist in Atlanta. “Physicians, nurses, and health professionals are deeply concerned that these political events will unnecessarily expose people to COVID-19. As frontline health workers, we ask Sens. Loeffler and Perdue to lead by example and stop holding these campaign events that needlessly put people at risk. Georgians are getting sicker in huge numbers, and science has shown that bringing people into crowded spaces in the middle of a highly contagious disease outbreak exposes them to more sickness and even potential death. The COVID pandemic doesn’t care what party people belong to, but they’re more likely to get sick if they stand close to each other and don’t wear masks.”
On Sunday, Georgia reported a seven-day average of new cases of more than 4,834, a record that’s higher than any reported during the summer surge. The previous seven-day record was 3,731 set on July 24.
On Monday, Sens. Perdue and Loeffler held a campaign rally with Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter, in Milton. The rally attracted a large crowd of many unmasked attendees. On Saturday, Sen. Perdue held a rally with Donald Trump Jr. in Catoosa County, also with a mostly maskless crowd. On Dec. 5, President Trump held a large rally for Sens. Perdue and Loeffler, also with a maskless crowd. In November, Sens. Loeffler and Perdue held an indoor rally with more than 300 people, mostly without masks, at the Black Diamond Grill in Cumming. Also in November, a news crew left an indoor rally that was so crowded the reporter and camera crew feared imminent risk to their health.
President Trump is scheduled to hold a rally for Sens. Perdue and Loeffler on Jan. 4.
“Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler simply won’t take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, whether that’s keeping other people safe or delivering timely relief to Georgia families who are going through so much pain and suffering right now,” said Dr. Adam Friedlander, an emergency medicine physician in Atlanta. “As an emergency physician, I can tell you that my colleagues and I are struggling to care for victims of this type of careless behavior every day, whether they be parents infected after their children attended a seemingly innocent indoor birthday party, rally attendees, or those unwittingly infected by them. Our hospitals are filling up, staff is stretched thin, resources are running low, and the last thing we need is our two U.S. senators holding crowded, unsafe rallies as if the pandemic hasn’t already killed 10,000 people in Georgia. Sens. Perdue and Loeffler should be leading by example, promoting mask wearing and avoiding large gatherings, not intentionally hosting super-spreader events at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic so far.”
Large, crowded political rallies have been linked to COVID-19 outbreaks and even deaths. When President Trump held rallies in 18 counties between June 20 and September 22, data shows those “rallies resulted in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19.” The Stanford University researchers wrote: “Applying county specific post-event death rates, we conclude that the rallies likely led to more than 700 deaths.”*
Senate Republicans, including Sens. Perdue and Loeffler, waited more than 200 days to finally pass a long-delayed pandemic relief package that would address vaccine distribution, resources for hospitals and other support. From the time the U.S. House passed a relief package May 15 to Sunday, when the Senate finally passed one, nearly 9,000 Georgians died from COVID-19 during those 8 months and a half-million people were sickened. Meanwhile, Sens. Perdue and Loeffler have been implicated in highly questionable financial transactions that enriched them and involved privileged information related to the pandemic.
“As physicians who see death and sickness up close every day, Sen. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler’s disregard for the safety of our fellow Georgians is appalling and an insult to the men and women who work tirelessly to care for people in ICUs across Georgia,” said Dr. Jehangir Pirzada, an emergency medicine physician in Atlanta. “In the time when Sens. Loeffler and Perdue should have been taking care of Georgians during the pandemic and giving doctors and nurses the resources we need to save lives, they were instead busier taking care of their own personal fortunes. Whether they’re using their privileged position for their own benefit or flouting evidence-based safety measures that put people in danger, Sens. Loeffler and Perdue are failing the test of leadership.”
* Other data analyzed earlier also links the president’s rallies to outbreaks: One analysis Oct. 26 showed that about half of Trump’s 22 campaign rallies held between June and September were followed by a county-level increase in COVID-19 cases, suggesting the events may have led to community spread. After one campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 14, COVID-19 cases surged in Iowa from around 1,000 on the day of Trump’s event to more than 2,000 on Wednesday. In Pennsylvania, communities surrounding Erie, where Trump held a rally Oct. 20, saw cases spike. Another data analysis shows cases went up two weeks after Trump held rallies in Marathon County, Wis., which saw a 50-percent spike; Bemidji, Minn., which saw a 24-percent spike; Mankato, Minn., where cases rose 9 percent; Lackawanna, Penn., which saw a 4.6-percent increase; and Harrisburg, Penn., where cases went up 3.5 percent.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, December 22, 2020
NOTE: The physicians above are speaking in their capacity as members of the Committee to Protect Medicare. They should be identified only as indicated in this news release.