MADISON – President Donald Trump is coming Saturday to La Crosse and Green Bay, two cities where coronavirus cases are surging.
The stops are timed at a crucial moment in the race, as Trump tries to get Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court and pushes back against a New York Times report that Trump had not paid taxes in 11 of 18 recent years.
The Republican president’s trip comes two weeks after he held a rally in Mosinee and underscores his desire to frequently visit a state he won by less than a percentage point in 2016.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden was in Manitowoc last week, visiting the state for the second time this year.
Both campaigns are also sending top surrogates to the state. Biden’s wife, Jill, stopped in Madison and Eagle on Monday and Trump’s son Eric will be in Rothschild on Wednesday.
Trump’s first event Saturday is at 3:30 p.m. at the La Crosse Regional Airport. His second one is at 6 p.m. Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay.
Trump’s rallies, which are known for their size and lack of social distancing, will be held in two cities with some of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in the country.
La Crosse has the second-highest rate of infection, according to a New York Times analysis, and Green Bay has the sixth-highest number of cases per capita.
Coronavirus cases around the state are skyrocketing and hospitalizations are at a record high. As of Monday, every county in the state has high virus activity, according to the state Department of Health Services.
The Green Bay area, especially, is seeing high numbers of coronavirus patients in their health care centers.
At Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, coronavirus patients occupy three-quarters of the hospital’s intensive care unit beds and two-thirds of medical unit beds — roughly double the number from two weeks ago.
Last week, the Bellin Hospital emergency room was so overwhelmed that hospital workers had to tend to patients on gurneys in the hallway.
Meanwhile, 150 Bellin Hospital employees are quarantining at home.
Local health officials said they have enough resources to manage patients, with and without COVID-19, but that could quickly change if cases continue to increase.
Only Forest County in northern Wisconsin has a worse case rate than La Crosse County, according to Health Services data.
Deputy Health Services Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said Monday the healthiest thing to do right now is to stay away from large gatherings but urged attendees to wear masks and stay six feet away from others.
She said those who want to attend the rallies but feel sick in any way — even just a runny nose — should not go.
Trump announced his visit the same day attorneys with the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty asked a judge to immediately block the state’s mask requirement as part of a lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ authority to declare a public health emergency.
Trump and Biden are to debate for the first time on Tuesday, where Trump is likely to be asked about his taxes. The New York Times reported Sunday that a review of his tax returns had found he used a string of tax-avoidance measures and had chronic losses totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
Philip Shulman, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Trump’s visit wouldn’t change the public perception that the president is “chaotic and ineffective.”
“Whether it’s trying to rip health care away from millions of people with pre-existing conditions or paying only $750 in federal income taxes while passing a tax bill that will ultimately raise taxes on working Wisconsinites, Donald Trump only cares about one person: himself,” he said in a statement.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.