Is President Trump coming to Fort Myers? No one's quite sure
Is President Trump visiting Fort Myers on Friday? No one locally seems quite sure. But everyone is talking about it.
Rumors of a presidential visit to the City of Palms whipped local officials and media into a frenzy on Wednesday following reports showing a temporary flight restriction in place for the area that is typically reserved for such high-level visits. Then came reports within the city government about a potential presidential visit.
"I think it's more likely going to happen than not," Mayor Randy Henderson said. Henderson said he heard about it from City Manager Saeed Kazemi, who Henderson believes heard it from law enforcement who heard about it possibly from the Secret Service. "There are some tell-tale signs."
The Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Fort Myers Police Department wouldn't comment. Neither would the Tampa and Fort Myers field offices of the Secret Service.
Spokespersons for Fort Myers and Lee County governments also declined to comment, referring questions to the White House. The White House Press Office did not confirm or deny when reached by phone on Wednesday.
Lee County's branch of the Republican Party did not return messages seeking confirmation of the trip. Russell Tuff, chairman of the Collier County Republican Party, said he had heard a rumor about a visit but could not confirm it.
The trip is not noted on Trump's campaign site.
If it does happen, it would likely have to be sometime in the morning or early afternoon, as he's already scheduled to be in Ocala at 4 p.m. that day.
The clearest answer on this presidential mystery came from Jonathon Little, spokesman for the Lee Health hospital system, which would be charged with treating the president in the case of illness or injury. "We were made aware that the President might be in Southwest Florida on Friday," Little said in an email.
Henderson said he's heard of several possible venues for a presidential visit, the most recent of which was the Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater, which is attached to the new Luminary Hotel in downtown Fort Myers.
"The word I got was that it would be a much smaller crowd, estimated maybe in the neighborhood of 400 to 500 people," he said. "They're going to be asked to wear masks and to use CDC guidelines. Those are the messages I've been getting."
A call to the Luminary Hotel was not returned Wednesday.
While the size and location of a potential Friday event are still unconfirmed, public health officials have cautioned against gathering in large crowds during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those who do should follow basic safety rules.
"It is recommended by the CDC, as well as the state Surgeon General, to wear a mask, especially in public and when you can't maintain social distancing," said Kristine Hollingsworth, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County. "There are also mitigation (steps) of washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available."
The president's White House physician, Sean Conley, said Monday that Trump had tested negative for COVID-19 on an antigen test. NBC, which is hosting a Thursday town hall event for the president in Miami, released a statement Wednesday that claims infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci believes “with a high degree of confidence” that Trump is no longer infectious.
Trump was last in Lee County in 2018, when he held a Halloween-day rally at Hertz Arena in Estero. This would be his fourth trip to Southwest Florida since announcing his presidential run in 2015.
Southwest Florida is a reliably Republican-voting region. But polls show the president in a close race with former Vice President Joe Biden, meaning that turnout among his base will be key to winning the state's 29 electoral votes.
Frank Gluck is a watchdog reporter with The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @FrankGluck.
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