New Hampshire's GOP governor will greet president but not attend Trump’s rally

Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire, campaign will strongly encourage masks

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson weighs in on keeping the public safe during campaign events on ‘America’s Newsroom.’

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. –  Gov. Chris Sununu said he will welcome President Trump as he arrives in New Hampshire for his Saturday evening rally, but the Republican governor added that he won’t be attending the event.

“As the governor, I am always going to be there to greet the president and I will be there to do that,” Sununu told reporters.

But Sununu went on to explain Tuesday during his regular coronavirus briefing, “I will not be in the crowd of thousands of people… As the governor, I try to be extra cautious for myself and the family.”

The president’s rally – at Pease International Airport, located in Portsmouth – will be Trump’s second since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country in March, forcing most Americans to huddle in their homes and triggering the freefall of much of the nation’s economy.

Unlike last month’s rally in Tulsa, Okla.,  where the predicted large crowds never materialized, Saturday’s event will be an outdoor rally.

President Trump supporters listen to Trump speak during a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Sununu urged anyone over 60 years of age or those with compromised immune systems to avoid the rally, which will be held on the tarmac just outside of a large hangar.

“It’s not the law, but it is a very smart move,” Sununu said. “You don’t need to be in a large gathering where you are at greater risk.”

With the nation’s death toll from the pandemic topping 130,000, public health officials continued to urge Americans to avoid large crowds, social distance and wear masks when in close proximity to other people.

Saturday's rally is being held as a majority of states across the country are experiencing spikes in new coronavirus cases. And the three most populous states, California, Texas and Florida, as well as a other states including Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, are now dealing with surges after relaxing restrictions in the past month. Overall , more than 20 states have paused or reversed moves to reduce restrictions.

It’s a different story in New Hampshire, which is one of only a handful of states where the number of new cases of coronavirus has declined in recent weeks.

New Hampshire is currently asking out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days or take a coronavirus test. But the governor said that the president doesn’t have to self-quarantine because he is coming just for the rally and then departing.

“If you are just coming in for an event or going shopping here, then the 14-day quarantine doesn’t apply,” Sununu explained.

When announcing the event over the weekend, the Trump campaign emphasized that there would be "ample access to hand sanitizer and all attendees will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, in his office in the statehouse in Concord, N.H., in January 2019.

Sununu drove that point home on Monday, saying in a statement that he was "pleased to see the campaign will be handing out face masks and hand sanitizer to all attendees, as has been true at all public gatherings in NH where social distancing is hard to maintain. It is imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks.”

The statement from Sununu’s office also spotlighted that the governor “will be wearing a mask” when greeting the president.

The state is advising but not requiring attendees at the event to wear masks.

Sununu is a supporter of the president and enjoys a close working relationship with Vice President Mike Pence. But he’s also running for reelection for a third two-year term steering New Hampshire, which is very much a purple state and a key general election battleground.

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