Health Care

Tulsa officials warn vulnerable people to stay home from Trump rally

Officials in Tulsa, Okla., said coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging and advised people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 to stay home rather than attend President Trump’s campaign rally on Saturday.

Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart and Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) said people who attend any large gathering, including the Trump rally and the city’s Juneteenth celebration, will likely be at risk, especially if they don’t wear masks.  

“Let me be clear: Anyone planning to attend a large-scale gathering will face an increased risk at being infected with COVID-19,” Dart said during a press conference. “We want to keep people safe. … If you are part of a vulnerable population, please stay at home.”

Bynum said he was excited that Trump chose to “honor” Tulsa and the way it has responded to the virus, but he couldn’t guarantee that anyone who attends the rally would be safe.

“I am not positive everything is safe. I’m not a public health professional,” Bynum said. “I completely understand the concern people have if folks show up at this event and aren’t smart about it.”

Bynum added that he thinks “any rational person looking at any large grouping of people would have concerns about this weekend.”

The Trump campaign has said that each attendee will receive a temperature check and be offered hand sanitizer and a mask at the door to the nearly 20,000-seat arena, though there is no requirement to wear a mask.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday dismissed health concerns about the rally and said anyone attending will assume a “personal risk.” 

Those who sign up for the rally must sign a disclaimer agreeing not to sue the Trump campaign or the host venue if they contract the coronavirus from the rally. Campaign officials claim more than 1 million people have requested tickets.

While public health experts have raised concerns that the rally could be a “superspreader” event, Bynum said he is more concerned about the people in the city who have stopped wearing masks and stopped practicing social distancing.

“We have 1 million people in this metro area. I think it would be a real tragedy if we ended up focusing on an event with 20,000 people that will happen for four hours over the weekend and not talk about what a million people are doing every day in this community,” Bynum said. 

Still, he said anyone over age 60 or with a compromised immune system should stay home.

“The question will be this weekend when everyone who shows up to this event is given a mask and a temperature check and hand sanitizer, will they be safe about it?” Bynum said.

Coronavirus cases in Tulsa have spiked in recent weeks, which Bynum and Dart attributed to people relaxing precautions rather than increased testing. 

“We’re just finding more positive cases, and I think that’s a testament to people going out and resuming their lives and not taking the precautions we’re recommending, so there’s more exposure,” Dart said.

Dart said a record 96 residents of Tulsa County tested positive for the virus over the past day and that there are currently 585 active cases in the county.

The county began to see a noticeable increase in cases starting early last week and has seen a significant increase in hospitalizations since June 6. Dart noted that hospitals still have capacity and have not been adversely impacted by the rise in cases. 

Dart said he had recommended the rally be postponed until it was safer to hold a large indoor event without a threat of significant COVID exposure. But he said, “Let’s focus on staying safe while it’s here.”

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Oklahoma Trump rally

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