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Minnesota, New Jersey officials urge COVID-19 testing after Trump events this week

Oct 2 (Reuters) - Officials in New Jersey and Minnesota on Friday urged hundreds of people who attended President Donald Trump’s campaign events in those states this week to get tested for COVID-19 after the U.S. president said he had contracted the coronavirus.

Trump, who has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, said that he and his wife Melania were going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus just hours after hosting a fundraising event in Bedminster, New Jersey.

On Wednesday, Trump held an outdoor campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota with hundreds of attendees. Video shows Trump tossing campaign caps into the crowd, not all of whom were wearing masks.

Callie Kaspszak, a 19-year-old student at the University of Minnesota Duluth who went to the Wednesday rally, said she was somewhat worried for her health when she heard the president had tested positive but was comforted knowing she had worn a mask.

“I’m not too concerned. Regardless if the rally was pre-COVID or COVID, you’re far enough away from the president that you’re within social distancing rules, six feet apart,” she said.

Simon Eddy, a 24-year-old engineer in Duluth who supports Biden for president, said he attended Trump’s rally on Wednesday to see firsthand the electric atmosphere that Trump supporters admire.

He said he felt he might have been at risk of contracting the virus at the event, but probably not from Trump, given how far he was from the president. He wore an N-95 mask, which offers a high level of protection from viral spread.

“Anyone who went to that event is putting themselves at risk,” Eddy said.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday urged those who attended the president’s events in the state this week, including the Duluth rally and a fundraiser in Shorewood, to get tested even if they were not showing symptoms.

“There is a potential risk that transmission occurred at the Duluth rally and other events associated with President Trump’s visit. Community transmission of COVID-19 was high in St. Louis County prior to this week’s rally, and people attending the rally may have been infectious without realizing it,” the department said in a statement.

Joel Sipress, a Democratic member of Duluth’s city council, said some local leaders had been concerned about spread of the virus at the rally even before news broke that Trump had tested positive.

“We know in a crowd of that size, given the rates of infection in northern Minnesota, that there would be people that were contagious,” Sipress said.

In New Jersey, some questioned Trump’s decision to go ahead with the fundraiser at his Bedminster golf club on Thursday after staffer Hope Hicks tested positive. Some at the event wore masks while others did not, a source familiar with the event said.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy encouraged those who attended the event to get tested.

“We urge everyone who attended yesterday’s event in Bedminster to take full precautions, including self-quarantining and getting tested for #COVID19,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. (Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Nathan Layne, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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