Trump visits border wall in Arizona amid increase in coronavirus cases, polling worries

SAN LUIS, Arizona (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump touted his construction of a wall along the border with Mexico on Tuesday, seeking to use his tough stance on immigration to enhance his struggling re-election campaign in a state where coronavirus infections are rising quickly.

Trump, who narrowly won Arizona in 2016, is looking to defend his foothold in the state as opinion polls show Democrat Joe Biden leading the Republican president and Republican Senator Martha McSally behind Democratic challenger Mark Kelly.

Joined by McSally, Trump visited a portion of the wall in San Luis, Arizona, in a dusty, barren landscape where the temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius). Using a black Sharpie pen, he autographed a plaque commemorating the 200th mile of freshly built wall.

A campaign pledge to build the wall helped propel Trump to the White House in 2016.

“My administration has done more than any administration in history to secure our southern border,” Trump said at an earlier roundtable event in nearby Yuma with border and law enforcement officials.

Later, in Phoenix, he will meet with young people at the Dream City Church. Trump enjoys strong support among evangelical Christians and has touted a re-opening of churches, despite concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus among gatherings of large groups.

The trip is Trump’s third this year to Arizona, which had a record increase of more than 3,500 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday. The state also saw record hospitalizations, record patients in intensive care, and a record number of patients on ventilators.

The president and his advisers have largely dismissed concerns about holding campaign events as the virus continues to spread in parts of the United States.

Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday brought thousands of people into an arena against the advice of health professionals, and several members of his campaign staff who were there have tested positive for the virus.

Arizona has emerged as one of the new U.S. coronavirus hotspots since Republican Governor Doug Ducey lifted a stay-at-home order on May 15.

Biden called Trump’s visit reckless as Arizona passed 50,000 confirmed cases and 1,300 deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“Yet once again, instead of doing the hard work needed to solve the public health and economic crises facing America, Donald Trump remains focused on his expensive, ineffective, and wasteful ‘wall’ on our Southern Border,” Biden said in a statement.

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