Oklahoma health officials have recommended the president postpone the event.
6 min read
As the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic and nation-wide calls for racial injustice, the announcement of the president’s first rally in over three months has inflamed concerns over both issues.
Health experts around the country, including in Oklahoma, have raised concerns about the president packing thousands of supporters, who have to agree not to sue the campaign or the president if they get sick, inside for rally as COVID-19 cases rise in the state.
“I’m really very concerned about this event being a super-spreader-type event,” Dr. Lena Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, told ABC News.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and leading member on the president’s coronavirus task force, said he would not attend Saturday’s event and told ABC News’ that attending a political rally or a protest right now is still “a danger” and “risky.”
Tulsa officials in the lead up to Saturday’s massive campaign event, which is expected to draw around 100,000 people to the area, even recommended to the president that he postpone the event out of fear the gathered wouldn’t be safe as data shows a spike in cases.
“I recommend it be postponed until it’s safer, until the data tells that is not as great of a concern to have people indoors, in enclosed spaces with a threat of a COVID-19 transmission,” Tulsa Health Department director Dr. Bruce Dart said Thursday. “That is what I personally would like to see happen. The virus is here. So let’s focus on staying safe while it’s here.”
But in response, the Trump campaign said it’s still full-steam ahead, with plans in place to check temperatures at the doors, hand out hand sanitizer and masks, however wearing one won’t be mandatory.
And rather than return to campaign events amid a pandemic that’s killed over 117,000 Americans with a more scaled-down approach, the president’s campaign is instead relaunching rallies on a scale even bigger than before the coronavirus hit—with Trump planning on delivering two speeches on Saturday, one to an overflow crowd packed together outside and another to thousands inside the BOK center.
“Look, I think Americans know best what’s best for them and for their families and of course taking those safe and responsible measures. If they will be attending the rally,” Trump campaign Senior Advisor Mercedes Shlapp told ABC NewsLive Primetime anchor Linsey Davis.
And while White House press secretary Kayleigh McCenny said at a White House press briefing on Friday that she won’t be wearing a mask when she attends Saturday’s rally, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said he has other plans when asked.
“Yes. Yes, I will probably be wearing a mask,” Parscale said in an interview with Fox News.
Saturday’s rally also comes as the nation continues to see massive protests and calls for racial justice continue into the Juneteenth holiday weekend, a day that celebrates the end of slavery. The president sparked controversy after initially announcing his return rally would take place on Juneteenth, but following widespread condemnation even from some within his own party, Trump took the rare step and changed the date.
However, the president said he wasn’t aware of the holiday when the campaign initially landed on the date, and also tried to take credit for populating the holiday that millions of black Americans celebrate each year, falsely telling the Wall Street Journal that “nobody” knew of Juneteenth until him and took credit for making the holiday “very famous.”
Amid threats of protests, the city of Tulsa put into place a curfew late Thursday night that would have lasted Friday and Saturday, but Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum rescinded the curfew less than 24 hours later.
Before the curfew was removed, a Trump adviser scoffed at the potential rally roadblock saying, “He’s the president and he’s going to do what he wants.”
Moments later the president tweeted: “I just spoke to the highly respected Mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum, who informed me there will be no curfew tonight or tomorrow for our many supporters attending the #MAGA Rally.”
“Enjoy yourselves – thank you to Mayor Bynum!”