President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, December 21, 2019. Marco Bello/Reuters

Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump conservative student group, is moving forward with an in-person event in Florida despite a national increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

The group’s annual Student Action Summit, which takes place in West Palm Beach, Florida, typically brings in thousands of young conservatives from across the US.

A TPUSA spokesperson told Insider that there have been record levels of registration for the event, but said the group is working to ensure the four-day summit, which begins on December 19, is done in a responsible way.

It will be “strongly” suggested that attendees wear masks, but it will not be a requirement, the spokesperson said. 

TPUSA’s cofounder, Bill Montgomery, died from COVID-19 in late July. 

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Turning Point USA, or TPUSA, is moving forward with its annual event for conservative students in Florida despite rising levels of COVID-19 in the state and across the country. 

The conservative advocacy group’s yearly Student Action Summit is set to take place in West Palm Beach, Florida, from December 19 through December 22, ending just days before Christmas. The summit will be held indoors at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. 

“Thousands of student activists between the ages of 15 and 25 will be invited to attend,” TPUSA’s website states. 

A TPUSA spokesperson familiar with plans for the event told Insider that given the “pent-up demand” for live events, the organization is experiencing “record registration” and the number of attendees is expected to be double or triple what was seen in the past. Last year, the event drew roughly 5,000 young people from around the US.

The spokesperson asked to remain anonymous due to the polarizing nature of the discussion surrounding COVID-19, as well as their lack of control over planning for the event.

TPUSA will be “strongly suggesting” that attendees wear masks but it will not be a requirement, the spokesperson said, noting that “Florida is still open” and there is no such mandate in the Sunshine State. There will also be hand-washing stations and masks available for anyone who doesn’t have one, among other precautions. 

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“Each person has their own freedom and they need to exercise that responsibly … and that it is part of the spirit of this event,” the spokesperson added, stating that TPUSA is exerting a “massive amount of energy” to manage the event in a sensible manner and has been working closely with the venue and local officials in that regard. 

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, speaking at the Council for National Policy in this still from video obtained by The Washington Post Council for National Policy/The Washington Post

The office of the mayor of West Palm Beach and the Palm Beach County Convention Center did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment. 

The online application for TPUSA’s annual student summit includes a COVID-19 waiver that states: “By applying for this event, you understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. In attending the event, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, and waive, release, and discharge Turning Point USA; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers from any and all liability under any theory, whether in negligence or otherwise, for any illness or injury.”

An array of prominent conservatives are scheduled to speak at the four-day event, including TPUSA founder and president Charlie Kirk, Donald Trump Jr., Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, among others. Most, if not all, of the speakers will be delivering their remarks in person, the TPUSA spokesperson said.

President Donald Trump spoke at TPUSA’s Student Action Summit last year, but is not currently scheduled to attend the 2020 event.

Kirk, an unabashed supporter of Trump, has repeatedly criticized COVID-19 lockdown orders.

On Thursday, for example, Kirk tweeted: “End all lockdowns immediately. Trust people to make good choices. if you are at risk, stay at home. If you are willing to live freely, you should be given that choice. Open America!”

TPUSA’s cofounder, Bill Montgomery, died of COVID-19 in late July. The conservative student group subsequently deleted a tweet featuring a Nicolas Cage meme mocking people for wearing protective masks. 

 

COVID-19 cases are rising in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is following the Trump’s example in terms of his approach to COVID-19. He has pushed against closing down businesses while refusing to implement a statewide mask mandate. Many other states are requiring that people wear masks or face-coverings while in public. 

“I’m opposed to mandates period. I don’t think they work,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Monday.

But research suggests otherwise. An October study conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Department of Health Policy found that COVID-19 death tolls were twice as high in Tennessee counties lacking mask mandates. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers a question during a press briefing on the state’s status in the coronavirus crisis, at Orlando Health’s Orlando Regional Medical Center, Sunday, April 26, 2020. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

There have been at least 1,018,152 COVID-19 cases and 18,775 fatalities in Florida since the start of the pandemic, per The New York Times. Cases are still rising in the state, with an average of 8,069 cases per day during the past week, according to the Times, which represents a 20% increase from the average two weeks ago. 

Overall, there have been more than 273,000 reported COVID-19 deaths in the US, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University, and over 13.9 million confirmed cases.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday warned that the winter months could be the “most difficult in the public-health history” of the country.

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