Cullman, Alabama has declared a Covid-19 state of emergency just hours before former president Donald Trump’s GOP rally in the area this weekend.

The declaration, which Cullman City Council passed during a special called meeting on Thursday, allows the city to provide additional personnel and equipment for the weekend’s GOP rally, according to AL.com. The meeting and subsequent motion were prompted by Cullman Regional Medical Center’s Chief Operating Officer, Nesha Donaldson, who sent the city a letter appealing for increased medical support.

In the letter, Donaldson explained that while the hospital planned to provide medical support at the rally, it was already experiencing overcrowding, bed and labor shortages, and increased strain on emergency medical services. Thus, Cullman Regional required assistance from the city in order to adequately manage its Covid-19 response, staffing and medical care at the rally.

At the time, Cullman Regional was treating 56 Covid-19 patients, 12 of whom were on ventilators. The Alabama Hospital Association subsequently announced that there were no available ICU beds in the entire state.

Still, preparations for Trump’s GOP rally are well underway. According to local news outlet WAFF48, Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl is “expecting a massive crowd of more than 20,000 people.” It will be the former president’s first visit to Alabama in four years.

“Donald Trump and the people of Alabama have a special relationship and for me, that’s what I’m feeding off of preparing for this event,” Wahl said.  “Just the energy out there, the enthusiasm, just how much people are looking forward to this, that really helps me feed off of that energy and get the job done as we’re working on this day and night to make this happen.”

As for Covid concerns: “There will be free masks for whoever wants them as well as hand sanitizer stations.”

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