SAN LUIS, Jun 24, 2020, Reuters. U.S. President Donald Trump touted his construction of a wall along the border with Mexico on Tuesday, seeking to use his tough stance on immigration to enhance his struggling re-election campaign in a state where coronavirus infections are rising quickly, Japan Today reported.
Trump, who narrowly won Arizona in 2016, is looking to defend his foothold in the state as opinion polls show Democrat Joe Biden leading the Republican president and Republican Senator Martha McSally behind Democratic challenger Mark Kelly.
Joined by McSally, Trump visited a portion of the wall in San Luis, Arizona, in a dusty, barren landscape where the temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius). Using a black Sharpie pen, he autographed a plaque commemorating the 200th mile of freshly built wall.
A campaign pledge to build the wall helped propel Trump to the White House in 2016.
“My administration has done more than any administration in history to secure our southern border,” Trump said at an earlier roundtable event in nearby Yuma with border and law enforcement officials.
Later, in Phoenix, he will meet with young people at the Dream City Church. Trump enjoys strong support among evangelical Christians and has touted a re-opening of churches, despite concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus among gatherings of large groups.
The trip is Trump’s third this year to Arizona, which had a record increase of more than 3,500 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday. The state also saw record hospitalizations, record patients in intensive care, and a record number of patients on ventilators.
The president and his advisers have largely dismissed concerns about holding campaign events as the virus continues to spread in parts of the United States.
Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday brought thousands of people into an arena against the advice of health professionals, and several members of his campaign staff who were there have tested positive for the virus.
Arizona has emerged as one of the new U.S. coronavirus hotspots since Republican Governor Doug Ducey lifted a stay-at-home order on May 15.
Biden called Trump’s visit reckless as Arizona passed 50,000 confirmed cases and 1,300 deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
“Yet once again, instead of doing the hard work needed to solve the public health and economic crises facing America, Donald Trump remains focused on his expensive, ineffective, and wasteful ‘wall’ on our Southern Border,” Biden said in a statement.
For a second consecutive week, Arizona, Texas and Nevada set records in their coronavirus outbreaks, and 10 other states from Florida to California were grappling with a surge in infections.
Texas reported over 5,000 new infections on Monday, a single-day record for the state. It has also seen COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record highs for 11 days in a row.
The Texas Children’s Hospital is admitting adult coronavirus patients due to a spike in serious COVID-19 cases in the Houston area.
“We know COVID-19 has not gone away. We implore you to take responsible actions – practice appropriate social distancing, wear a mask or face covering anytime you leave your home,” the Texas Children’s Hospital said in a statement, without specifying how many coronavirus patients they admitted.
While the United States appeared to have curbed the outbreak for several weeks in May, overall cases rose 25% last week with 10 states reporting a greater than 50% rise in new infections, according to a Reuters analysis.
The European Union is prepared to block Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing draft proposals of potential new travel restrictions.
The United States, which accounts for about a quarter of the world’s coronavirus cases and deaths and with new infections on the rise, would be in the same category as No.2 hotspot Brazil and Russia, according to the Times, citing the proposal.
In March, as cases surged in Europe, Trump banned most EU citizens from entering the United States in a bid to curb the outbreak, sparking outrage from EU leaders.
LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI SEE SPIKES
Arizona and Nevada reported record increases in new cases on Tuesday after recording all-time highs last week, according to a Reuters tally. Louisiana, which was a hotspot early in the U.S. outbreak, reported over 1,300 new cases on Tuesday – its highest level since April 7. Neighboring Mississippi reported a record number of new cases on Tuesday, its highest in two weeks.
While most states are increasing testing, the percentage of tests coming back positive is also rising. At least four states are averaging double-digit rates of positive tests for the virus: Arizona at 20%, Florida and Utah both at 11%, and Texas at 10%. By contrast, New York, formerly the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, has been reporting positive test rates of around 1%.
The World Health Organization considers positivity rates above 5% to be especially concerning.
Trump on Tuesday held fast to his claim that the spike in U.S. cases in multiple states was due to testing, not increased spread of the disease.
Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, said he was seeing a disturbing surge in several states, pointing to community spread as one reason infections were on the rise.
Many of these states are also seeing record hospitalizations — a metric not affected by increased testing.
In Arizona, hospitalized COVID-19 patients hit a record of over 2,100 on Tuesday, up 70% from two weeks ago. Only 16% of its intensive care unit beds remain available, according to a state website.