The top health official in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said that President Donald Trump’s June 20 campaign rally and accompanying protests likely boosted the number of coronavirus infections in the area.
“We do have the highest number of cases, and we’ve had the significant events in the past few weeks that more than likely contributed to that,” Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart said Wednesday at a news conference.
Trump held the rally despite pleas from local authorities to delay because they were already seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases. An estimated 6,200 people came to the city’s 19,000-seat BOK Center, many without masks.
Tulsa County accounts for 4,571 of Oklahoma’s 17,893 Covid-19 cases, or about 26%, according to county and state data. The county reported 261 and 206 cases for Monday and Tuesday, eclipsing Tuesday’s seven-day rolling average of 146.7.
Dart said the data and timing suggested a relationship between the increase and the Trump rally and other events.
“The past two days we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago,” he said. “I guess we just connect the dots.”
The 6,200-person crowd estimate from Tulsa’s fire department would make it the largest indoor event in the U.S. since March. It was Trump’s first rally since stay-at-home orders shut down large gatherings across the country.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh faulted protesters, not rally attendees.
“There were literally no health precautions to speak of as thousands looted, rioted, and protested in the streets,” Murtaugh said in a statement. “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.”
Trump plans to hold another rally Saturday inside an airplane hangar in New Hampshire. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the Trump campaign is taking hygiene precautions, but added “it’s the decision of individuals whether to go.”
Several Trump campaign staffers who planned the Tulsa rally, Secret Service personnel and a reporter who attended tested positive for Covid-19, according to media reports.
Mobile-phone location data from people who attended the rally show that most came from outside Tulsa, hailing from at least 44 counties spread across 12 states. Covid-19 was on the rise in 33 of them as of late June.
Trump supporters traveled from across the region, according to a Bloomberg analysis of data from SafeGraph. They didn’t fill the arena, though, and public health experts say the extra space may have lessened the risks of transmission.
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