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GOP gubernatorial hopeful Culp keeps rallies mask-optional, despite Trump coronavirus diagnosis

"I firmly believe in individual freedom and liberty," said Loren Culp, a Republican who is challenging incumbent Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

REPUBLIC, Wash. — Washington gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp said Friday he will continue to hold rallies and not require masks, despite President Donald Trump's recent diagnosis and hospitalization for COVID-19.

"I firmly believe in individual freedom and liberty," Culp told KING 5 from his hometown in Republic, just before he left for another campaign rally.

Despite limits on gatherings because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Culp, a Republican, has been holding rallies during his campaign for governor. Many attendees don't wear masks, which health officials locally and nationally say help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Culp has placed himself in opposition to Gov. Jay Inslee's mandates for social distancing, face coverings and limits on businesses and gatherings, which have been put in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.

Culp told KING 5 that he continues to stands by that position, despite Trump's diagnosis of COVID-19, which came after a week of national campaign events where he and others were not wearing masks. First Lady Melania Trump also tested positive for coronavirus.

"I'm going to keep them in my prayers, just like everyone else who has gotten coronavirus," Culp said. "99.8% of everyone recovers. I hope they have a speedy recovery." 

In a prepared statement, Culp's campaign committed to allowing attendees to choose whether to wear masks.

"The Culp for Governor campaign continues its commitment to allow free people to be educated regarding the virus and then to allow them to make the decision whether to attend our rallies," Culp's campaign said in a prepared statement.

Campaign manager Christopher Gergen confirmed that Culp and his staff have never been tested for coronavirus because no one has shown signs of illness. 

"Do you go to the doctor for a cold if you're not showing any symptoms of a cold?" Gergen said.

Inslee's office said that the governor and First Lady Trudi Inslee tested negative for coronavirus last week. They took the test to prepare for meeting a grandchild, his office reported.

Inslee also wished the president well in a tweet, and reminded people to wear masks.

Culp and Inslee will face off next Wednesday Oct. 7 in a televised debate, broadcast live from 8 to 9 p.m., just after that evening’s vice presidential debate, according to the Washington State Debate Coalition.

RELATED: Jay Inslee, Loren Culp agree to televised gubernatorial debate