Health officials fear former president Donald Trump's rally in Alabama later this month could become a superspreader event as COVID-19 cases spike in the nation's least-vaccinated state.
The city of Cullman, where Trump will stage the Aug. 21 rally, has recorded nearly 100 COVID-19 cases in the last week as the highly contagious Delta variant ravages the region, according to a report from the local CBS affiliate. The city has a population of just 15,000 and is scheduled to host another large event, Rock the South, the weekend before Trump's rally. Hospitalizations at Cullman Regional Medical Center are also up.
"The numbers were not nearly as high as they were back toward the peak, but they are rising. And anytime that they rise, it's disappointing," Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs said.
Dr. Don Williamson of the Alabama Hospital Association added, "At this point, because of how infectious this virus is, we simply have a wonderful opportunity for any number of events around the state to be superspreader events."
According to the Alabama Political Reporter, the state had just 6 percent of its ICU beds, or 87 beds, available on Monday, the lowest number since January.
Williamson noted that in addition to the virus, officials are fighting resistance to vaccines and masks in the deeply red state. About 94 percent of those hospitalized in Alabama with COVID are unvaccinated. The state has the lowest vaccination rate in the nation, at 34.9 percent.
"We are now fighting a two front war. We are not only fighting COVID, but we are also fighting misinformation," Williamson said.
Trump has long been criticized for holding large maskless rallies with no social distancing during the pandemic. Last year, researchers concluded that 18 of his rallies led to more than 30,000 COVID cases and 700 deaths.
For now, and despite the COVID surge, it appears the city of Cullman will go forward with hosting both Rock the South and Trump's rally.
"All the stores, retail will benefit from it. And just put a positive attitude on Cullman and we are always happy with that," Jacobs said.
Watch the station's report below.