Pence falsely claims Oklahoma has ‘flattened the curve’ ahead of Trump rally

In Tulsa on Saturday, Donald Trump will hold his first campaign rally since March, a showpiece event as the administration seeks to reopen a US economy battered by the coronavirus outbreak.

At the White House on Monday, Mike Pence claimed that “in a very real sense”, Oklahoma had “flattened the curve” of new Covid-19 infections. Pence leads the White House coronavirus task force and will attend the rally. In the president’s presence, he may have felt a need to be bullish.

“Today their hospital capacity is abundant,” the vice-president added, “the number of cases in Oklahoma has declined precipitously and we feel very confident going forward with the rally this coming weekend.”

But what he said was untrue.

At the weekend, Oklahoma reported its highest daily total of new Covid-19 cases, 225, since the pandemic began. On Sunday, Tulsa county reported its largest single-day increase since early March.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the US has recorded more than 2.1m cases of Covid-19, and more than 116,000 deaths. The same count records 8,417 cases in Oklahoma and 359 deaths and shows a most recent daily count of 186 new cases.

On Monday, state statistics showed the seven-day rolling average for new cases in Tulsa county was 65, up on a previous peak of 26 in early April.

The White House is demanding that attendees at the rally sign a waiver, clearing the campaign of responsibility should they contract the coronavirus.

Tulsa’s chief public health officer and the Tulsa World newspaper have called on Trump to cancel the rally. It has already been moved back a day to avoid a clash with Juneteenth, the day on which African Americans celebrate the end of slavery, during nationwide protests over police brutality and racism.

On Monday Bruce Dart, Tulsa’s chief public health officer, told the World: “I want people to be safe, and it hurts my heart to think that there’s a potential that we’re going to have something here where people become exposed to an illness. We’ve seen how devastating it’s been across the board in this country, and I don’t want it to happen to anybody here.”

Trump, meanwhile, claimed “Almost One Million people request tickets”. The BOK Center venue holds 19,000. A convention center nearby will extend capacity to around 62,000. Campaign manager Brad Parscale perhaps indicated the true purpose of the promotional effort when he heralded the “biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x”.

On Monday, as reports circulated of donors in New Jersey being stringently tested before being ushered into Trump’s presence, Parscale said of the rally: “Before entering each guest will get: Temperature check, Hand sanitizer, Mask.”

Trump has notoriously refused to wear a mask. Public health experts including Dr Anthony Fauci say the US may avoid a second wave of the virus if people take precautions including wearing masks and maintaining 6ft social distancing rules.

Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, backs the president’s visit and attributes rising cases in his state to increased testing.

“It is in the United States. It is in Oklahoma,” Stitt said on Monday. “And we can’t let [coronavirus] dictate our lives. We have to go about our lives, but we are going to do it with every precaution possible.”

At the White House, Trump revealed his thoughts on the efficacy of testing.

“If we stop testing right now,” the president said, “we’d have very few cases, if any.”

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