Top Tulsa health official indicates Trump rally fueled COVID-19 surge
TULSA, Okla. (WKBT) — President Donald Trump’s recent campaign rally in Tulsa last month “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases there, according to the head of the Tulsa-County Health Department.
Tulsa has recorded nearly 500 confirmed new cases in the past two days, said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the health department.
Statewide, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 673 confirmed new cases of the coronavirus today, the state’s second-highest daily total since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new cases follow a record high of 858 cases reported on Tuesday.
New Covid-19 cases the week of June 28 through July 4 had declined by 20 percent, the state health department reported.
In advance of the June 20 rally, Dart had pleaded with the Trump campaign to postpone the event, which he described as “a huge risk factor.” The campaign planned not only to fill the 19,000-capacity BOK Center but also had set up for an overflow of thousands more.
Ultimately, about 6,200 mostly unmasked supporters, sitting elbow-to-elbow, attended the event. During his speech, Trump ridiculed COVID-19 as Kung Flu and said slowing down testing would reduce cases.
As he has since the outbreak began, Trump also dismissed worries about contracting the disease, which has killed nearly 132,000 Americans and more than 500,000 worldwide.
Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who attended the event, has since tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Also testing positive were a reporter who attended the rally, six Trump campaign staffers and two Secret Service members who worked in advance of the rally.
The virus has an incubation period of three to 14 days.
Responding to indications that the Tulsa rally might have caused the Tulsa outbreak, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told CNN, “There were literally no health precautions to speak of as thousands looted, rioted, and protested in the streets and the media reported that it did not lead to a rise in coronavirus cases.
“Meanwhile, the president’s rally was 18 days ago, all attendees had their temperature checked, everyone was provided a mask, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer available for all. It’s obvious that the media’s concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies,” he said.
Trump’s next rally, at a Portsmouth, N.H., airport Saturday, also have received pushback from health officials concerned about COVID-19, even though it will take place outside.
And Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, said he wouldn’t attend the rally, in response to a reporter’s query.
“I’m not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people, if that’s your question specifically,” Sununu said.
Former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath, also a Republican, echoed the governor’s sentiment, saying, “It’s not what we need right now in terms of COVID. We have been very, very fortunate — our number of deaths are quite small.”
Other media resources also contributed to this report.
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