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Health Experts and Oklahoma Officials Wary of Holding Trump Rally as Virus Numbers Rise

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally at International Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona.
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally at International Air Response Hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. Date: October 19, 2018. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“Certainly things held indoors are less safe than things held outdoors. But all these large gatherings are going to lead to spread. There’s just no question about it.”

President Donald Trump is preparing to return to his signature rallies on Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., but health experts and elected officials are concerned about COVID-19 transmission. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he will not be in attendance and reiterated that “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd,” CNBC reported.

‘A Great Time’

Fauci is not alone in expressing concern that the virus could travel faster in a 20,000-seat venue. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Gottlieb said he “wouldn’t attend a large gathering right now, especially one indoors.”

“Certainly things held indoors are less safe than things held outdoors,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “But all these large gatherings are going to lead to spread. There’s just no question about it.”

As the pandemic spread across the globe, nations locked down, particularly in regard to large gatherings of people. Even now, three months after the US began its coronavirus shutdown, there are questions of whether professional sports will return this year and the US Open will be played without fans in attendance, EPSN reported.

However, with the US election less than five months away, Trump is eager to return to the campaign trail on Saturday. His campaign team is preparing for a large turnout, telling CNN that it has received over one million reservations. The Trump campaign is also making plans to secure a second venue to accommodate an overflow crowd, with Trump “likely” making an appearance at the second location as well.

“I think we’re going to have a great time,” Trump said. “We expect to have — you know, it’s like a record-setting crowd. We’ve never had an empty seat.”

Campaign officials told CNBC that precautions will be taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

“The campaign takes the health and safety of rally-goers seriously and is taking precautions to make the rally safe,” said Erin Perrine, deputy communications director for the Trump Campaign. “Every single rally goer will have their temperature checked, be provided a face mask and hand sanitizer.”

Doctors Warn of Rally Dangers

Tulsa officials have tried to no avail to convince the campaign to cancel its plan for a rally, The New York Times reported.

“It’s the perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission,” said Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa health department. “It’s a perfect storm that we can’t afford to have.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he is absolutely certain an attendee will bring the virus to the rally. 

Pssst, while you're here...

“The Covid virus knows no political affiliation. What it does love is large groups, indoors, close to each other for prolonged periods of time chanting and yelling.”

Cases Spike in Oklahoma

On Monday, Tulsa record its highest number of cases, 89, in a single day. In a single week, the city logged nearly double the number of cases from the week prior and with it, double the number of hospitalized patients, The New York Times reported.

Vice President Mike Pence insisted, however, that Oklahoma had “flattened the curve,” in a statement defending the decision on Monday. The data tells another story, though as the number of new daily cases is at its highest levels, according to data from John Hopkins University. For three of the past seven days, the state has reported over 200 new cases.

Sen. James Lankford, R–Okla., conceded that the state is experiencing a increased rate of new cases, but said hospitalizations have remained flat, contradicting data aggregated by The New York Times. Lankford said that people with preexisting conditions or weak immune systems should  not attend the rally on Saturday. In an MSNBC interview, he advised attendees to wear masks, but Lankford told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he had yet to make a decision on whether he would personally wear one.

“I am fully aware that a lot of the nation is looking at Oklahoma right now, and saying ‘I can’t believe that they’re holding a political rally,’ ” but “we’re way ahead of a lot of the other areas in the country” in terms of reopening the state’s economy,” Lankford told CNN.

Effort to Stop Event Failed

The Trump campaign has mandated that attendees sign waivers before the rally to prevent a wave of potential lawsuits if the virus spreads at the event. The president has called attempts to cancel the rally a political move by the left.

“The Far Left Fake News Media, which had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters destroying Democrat run cities, is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies. Won’t work!” Trump tweeted.

A lawsuit brought by a group of Tulsa nonprofits and immunocompromised residents argued the rally could amplify the spread of the virus across the city. They sued the venue’s owner, ASM Global, alleging the event “will endanger not only the health of the guests in attendance…but the entire Tulsa community and any community to which guests may afterward travel,” Public Radio Tulsa reported.

A Tulsa judge dismissed the suit and denied issuing a temporary injunction.

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Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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