CHICAGO - President Donald Trump's weekend rally in Oklahoma drew a record-setting crowd of TV viewers to Fox News Channel: 7.7 million, the channel's largest ever Saturday night audience.
In the arena where the president spoke, though, there were thousands of empty seats. Public health officials had urged people to stay away.
The president's campaign did distribute thousands of facemasks, but few supporters wore them. An outspoken Illinois lawmaker thinks they made the right decision.
State Rep. Darren Bailey was escorted off the floor of a special session of the Illinois House last month when he temporarily declined to don a face mask. He is a Trump alternate delegate to this summer's Republican convention and doesn't plan to wear a mask at the president's acceptance speech now planned for Jacksonville, Florida.
“I don't intend to in Florida. I believe, as I stated from day one, the mask is to protect you, if you're concerned. I've talked to many doctors since then. And I have much proof to back that statement up. So, no, I do not intend on wearing a mask,” Bailey said.
Public health officials in Illinois and other states point to a study just published in the Medical Journal Lancet: without a mask, the risk of transmitting an active case of COVID-19 is about 17-percent. With an N95-style mask, about 3-percent.
Rep. Bailey noted, though, that relatively few mask users wear properly fitted N95s.
“Many of the masks we see today are simple bedsheets. They're not all the standard typical N95 masks. I witnessed that on the House floor. I believe that if you are concerned about your health, then you should wear a mask. And maybe you should stay indoors and home,” Bailey said.
With Democrat Joe Biden always wearing a facemask and President Trump resolutely refusing to wear one in public, they've become another symbol of deeply divided partisanship.