PHOENIX – It wasn't quite one of his signature big-stadium rallies.
But President Donald Trump drew something closer to the jam-packed audience of political supporters he's been craving as hundreds of young conservatives filled a Phoenix megachurch Tuesday to hear his call for them to get behind his re-election effort.
The crowded Dream City Church for the gathering of Students for Trump offered a starkly different feel compared with Trump's weekend rally in Tulsa, Okla., his first of the coronavirus era, which drew sparser attendance.
Trump hailed the "patriotic young Americans who stand up tall for America and refuse to kneel to the radical left."
Trump was looking to regain campaign momentum after Tulsa, which was supposed to be a sign of the nation's reopening and a show of political force. Instead, it generated thousands of empty seats and swirling questions about the president's campaign leadership and his case for another four years in office.
But throughout his daylong trip to Arizona, which included a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, the COVID-19 pandemic shadowed Trump.
The Democratic mayor of Phoenix made clear she did not believe Trump's speech could be safely held in her city — and urged the president to wear a face mask.
But Trump has adamantly refused to wear a mask in public, instead turning it into a red-vs.-blue cultural issue. Few in the crowd at the Students for Trump event donned masks.
Since late May, Arizona has emerged as one of the nation's most active hot spots for the spread of COVID-19.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a Trump supporter, reversed himself last week and allowed cities and counties to require people to wear masks in public places. Most have, including Phoenix and Yuma and the counties that surround them.
Arizona is seeing disturbing trends in several benchmarks, including the percentage of tests that prove positive for the virus, which is the highest in the nation.
The state reported a new daily record of nearly 3,600 additional coronavirus cases Tuesday as Arizona continued to set records for the number of people hospitalized, in intensive care and on ventilators for COVID-19. Arizona's total caseload in the pandemic is at least 58,179, with 42 more deaths reported Tuesday, raising the death toll to 1,384.