As the coronavirus plows through the United States, health experts worry President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will become a new hotspot for coronavirus infections.
Leaders and public health experts have expressed concern, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as well as Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa’s health department, who told the Tulsa World he wishes “we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”
Tulsa’s Bank of Oklahoma Center arena can hold just under 20,000; attendees will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. People have been lining up for days to secure their spots.
But, at a time when Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Oklahoma — the state has seen new confirmed cases more than double from the previous week, according to analysis of Johns Hopkins University data — and in neighboring Texas, the rally could be a recipe for a super-spreader event.
Attendees will not be required to maintain social distance or wear masks at tonight’s rally, despite the Trump administration’s top public health officials stressing the importance of both measures in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
The rally violates virtually every one of the guiding principles for gatherings issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting it in the “highest risk” category:
- It’s large and it’s indoors.
- Social distancing almost certainly will not be possible if the arena is filled to anything close to capacity.
- Attendees will likely be yelling and chanting (and expelling droplets farther and faster than if they were speaking quietly).
- There might be social pressure to not wear masks, as many Trump supporters have mocked the use of masks during the pandemic, and Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he thinks some people wear them to signal disapproval of him.
“We know what makes transmission of the virus occur more frequently, and that includes close contact, particularly without masking, crowds, [being] indoors versus outdoors, the duration of the contact, and then shouting also increases the possibility of transmission,” said Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
“There are going to be tens of thousands of people in attendance. So, it is a great place to spread virus. And from what I understand, these are not just people who live in Tulsa. There are people coming in from far away to go to the rally, so they’ll be returning to their home cities, and so that we may see spread outside of the Tulsa area,” she continued.