Lawsuit filed to stop Trump rally

President Trump greets supporters at Ocala International Airport during a visit to the area last year.

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Posted October 15, 2020 | By Bill Thompson

A Marion County woman has filed a lawsuit to stop President Donald Trump’s rally in Ocala on Friday.

According to court records filed late Wednesday, Chanae Jackson says both of her teen-aged children contracted COVID-19, and she’s concerned that the president’s rally will promote the spread of the virus.

“Jackson and her family cannot afford to experience COVID-19 again,” says the lawsuit, which names the Trump campaign and the city of Ocala as defendants.

“The community in which OIA (Ocala International Airport) is located has already experienced a devastating level of COVID-19 exposure, and Trump’s appearance while infected – in defiance of his own experts’ guidance – will embolden hundreds of his supporters to attend unmasked and undistanced, increasing the likelihood of more infections in Marion County.”

The Trump campaign did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

City Attorney Pat Gilligan called the lawsuit “transparently political,” adding that the city had not been formally served with paperwork announcing the action.

“Until a judge tells us, I don’t know that we have a responsibility to do anything,” Gilligan said. “If you’re really concerned about the health of your children, it seems there’s a thousand targets you could pick, like Walmart, Publix, high school football games.”

The rally is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at the airport. Thousands of the president’s supporters are expected to attend.

In light of that, Jackson’s lawsuit recounts the president’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis, and the positive tests by more than two dozen members of Trump’s staff. The filing also seeks to dispute doctors’ claims that Trump is over the illness.

“The President still has COVID-19 and is still likely contagious,” the lawsuit says. “Trump remains a walking disease vector.”

Yet Trump’s White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, has said in the last few days, as Trump prepared to resume rallies, that he is over COVID and no longer contagious.

This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the president’s COVID task force, agreed. In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, Fauci said, “I, and one of my colleagues who’s very experienced in this, Dr. Cliff Lane, came to the conclusion — I think certainly correctly — that he is of no threat to transmit the virus to anybody else.”

Fauci, when asked whether the president is putting people who travel with him at risk, added, “The answer to that is no, he is not.”

Still, Jackson’s lawsuit contends that the rally would be a “nuisance detrimental to the health and welfare” of Marion County, and cites her personal experience with COVID to explain the risk.

The lawsuit notes that her children, who are not identified, contracted COVID from a family member who was unaware she had the virus.

For Jackson’s daughter, the lawsuit says, the illness was similar to the flu. Yet her son faced “almost deadly consequences.” Over an 11-day period, he recorded a 103.1-degree temperature and plunging oxygen and blood pressure levels, yet was twice denied hospitalization because “the hospital could not accommodate so many sick people.”

Noting the lack of masks and social distancing at Trump’s recent rally in Sanford, the first campaign event the president held after recovering from the coronavirus, the lawsuit argues, “The public policy goal of blunting the spread of one of the most far-reaching and deadly viral outbreaks in human history is served by canceling the OIA rally or by requiring that Defendants necessary precautions protect and ensure Plaintiffs’ safety if Trump travels to Marion County.”

Yet as of Wednesday, Marion County has experienced 49 consecutive days of positivity rates below 10 percent — the state’s threshold for determining if the spread of the virus is “substantial” and additional mitigation is warranted.

Marion County Health Department officials characterize the current level – a daily average of 4.52 percent positivity over the last two weeks – as “minimal to moderate community transmission,” relative to the county’s rate earlier this year.

Jackson’s lawsuit was filed by a Democratic lawyer from Santa Rosa Beach lawyer, Daniel Uhlfelder.

According to media reports, Uhlfelder sought attention, and campaign contributions for Democratic candidates, by walking Panhandle beaches as the Grim Reaper to protest Gov. Ron DeSantis’s response to the virus.

He also runs a political action committee that targets Republican lawmakers whom he describes as “bad actors,” and in June Uhlfelder discarded his own coronavirus admonitions and posted photos of himself and others attending huge Black Lives Matter rallies in Florida without social distancing.

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