Trump visits Mount Rushmore amid controversy, coronavirus concerns
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will begin his July Fourth celebrations with a trip to Mount Rushmore on Friday despite concerns about gathering a large crowd during the novel coronavirus pandemic and criticism from Native Americans about the visit.
Trump will view a fireworks display with thousands of people at the South Dakota landmark, which depicts the images of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
The site has not had fireworks since 2009 because of environmental concerns. Trump advocated for a resumption of the display, and the state says the surrounding Black Hills National Forest has “gained strength” since then and that fireworks technology has advanced.
It will be the Republican president’s latest event with large crowds, defying health experts’ recommendations to avoid big gatherings amid recent spikes of COVID-19 cases across the country.
Some 7,500 people are expected to attend the outdoor event. Masks will be available but are not required.
South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem told Fox News earlier this week that those who had concerns could stay home and said “we won’t be social distancing.”
Cheryl Schreier, superintendent of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 2010 to 2019, admonished Noem and Trump for defying social distancing guidelines for an event she warned carried risks of spreading disease, triggering wildfires and contaminating groundwater.