Prior to the president’s rally in Tulsa in June, his first since the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown, the city’s health department director Bruce Dart pleaded with Trump to suspend the event, calling it a “perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission.” Despite the de facto social distancing of the half-empty stadium, Dart’s anxieties appear to have been warranted.
“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart, the Tulsa City-County Health Department director, said on Wednesday, adding that the rally “more than likely contributed” to the uptick in cases. On Monday, Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases, along with 206 more new patients on Tuesday — that’s up from 76 and 96 cases on the Monday and Tuesday prior to the June 20 rally. Last week, Dart anticipated there would be a delay before the rally’s effect would show up in public-health data, citing the gap between patients developing symptoms and going to get tested, and the county reporting the confirmed cases.
In response to Dart’s comment, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told the Associated Press in a statement that “everyone was provided a mask, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer available for all.” He also condemned the media for reporting that protests following the police killing of George Floyd did not lead to an uptick in cases. (Despite epidemiologists’ expectations that the protests would lead to a surge in new patients, there have not been any significant outbreaks linked to the demonstrations, largely due to near-universal mask wearing and the outdoor setting of the events.) Though masks were provided at the president’s rally — which drew around 6,000 attendees — they were not mandated, and many pictures from the event show a large number of supporters without face coverings. In the run-up to the event, six of Trump’s campaign staffers and two Secret Service members on the ground in Tulsa tested positive for COVID-19.
As the president continues to hold rallies, the Republican Party is shying away from in-person events. Earlier this week, five senators stated they would not appear at the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention in August; on Wednesday, the Texas GOP’s convention next week in Houston was canceled, due to the city’s substantial outbreak. As Trump prepares for his next rally, to be held on Saturday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the state’s Republican governor told CNN he would not be in attendence. “I’m not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people, if that’s your question specifically,” Governor Chris Sununu told the network.