Health officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have urged caution on attending gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic — just over a week before President Donald Trump is set to host a massive indoor campaign rally in the city.
The Tulsa Health Department noted on its website Friday that Tulsa County had reported 71 new cases of the virus that day, its highest daily increase to date. Preliminary investigations linked the rise to indoor gatherings, it said.
Trump’s rally is planned for June 20 at the 19,000-capacity BOK Center.
A waiver on Trump’s 2020 campaign website warns people requesting tickets that “an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present” and they forfeit the right to sue anyone involved in the organization of the event if they catch the virus there.
Tulsa’s health officials did not explicitly refer to Trump’s rally in the statement.
Dr. Bruce Dart, the department’s executive director, said he has “concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time.”
“It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe. If you are sick or think you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home,” Dart warned. “The bottom line is that the more people an infected individual interacts with and the longer that interaction lasts, the greater the risk for spreading COVID-19 becomes.”
Dart was more candid about his fears regarding the event in an interview with KRMG Morning News. “Any large gathering of any nature at this juncture is definitely a concern,” he said.
Dart advised people “not to go to large gatherings in enclosed spaces” and to “take precautions” if they did. “I have no idea if there will be social distancing within the BOK. Pay close attention to hand washing and hygiene,” Dart added, acknowledging it could be difficult to do so in a busy setting.
Tulsa County has now had 1,443 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the department. The contagion has killed 62 people in the county. “Events with no size limit” resumed in Tulsa on June 1, the department added.
Multiple medical professionals have warned the rally could become a so-called super-spreader event. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, on Friday described any large group as “a danger.”
“When you start to chant and shout, even though the instinct is to pull the mask down, which you see. Don’t do that, because there is a risk there, and it’s a real risk,” he told ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast.
The Trump campaign initially planned to hold the president’s rally on June 19, or Juneteenth. Trump, who has faced widespread criticism for his violent rhetoric on the anti-racism protests that have spread nationwide, said he moved the date to June 20 “out of respect ” for the holiday.
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