Tulsa health official: Trump rally ‘likely contributed’ to COVID-19 surge
A Tulsa, Okla., health official said Wednesday that President Trump’s rally and the accompanying protests “likely contributed” to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the county.
Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Dart during a Wednesday press conference attributed the increase in new cases over the past two days to the rally and the associated protests. On Monday, the county identified 261 new cases, the highest daily increase during the pandemic, and on Tuesday, officials confirmed 206 new cases, he said.
“In the past two days, we’ve had almost 500 new cases, and we knew we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said.
The health department has a policy not to publicly identify settings where people may have contracted the virus.
But when asked how Tulsa County ended up having the most cases in the state, Dart said, “We did have some significant events in the past few weeks that more than likely contributed to that.”
“We have to follow different rules now,” he said, adding, “If we’re going out in public and we’re engaging with other people and we’re not taking precautions, we’re gonna have transmissions. I mean, that’s just the bottom line.”
Tulsa County has confirmed 4,571 cases of COVID-19, leading to 72 deaths and 3,451 recoveries, according to Oklahoma data. The county makes up more than 25 percent of the cases and more than 17 percent of the deaths in the state.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health recorded its highest increase in new cases on Tuesday, with 858 new cases identified, bringing the state’s total to 17,893.
Asked about the Tulsa health official’s comments during a press briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she had “no data” indicating the rally was the source of an increase in cases.
“I have no data to indicate that on my end, but it’s the decision of individuals whether to go. We encourage the wearing of masks. As the president said, if he couldn’t distance, he would [wear a mask], but it’s the individual choice of the person,” McEnany said.
McEnany also indicated that Trump had no plans to make changes to the health protocols at his rallies, noting that the campaign is distributing hand sanitizer and masks and that individuals choose whether to attend events.
Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said in a statement that there were “no health precautions to speak of” during the protests over George Floyd’s death across the country and noted that “the media reported it did not lead to a rise in coronavirus cases,” citing a CNN report.
“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,” he said. “It’s obvious that the media’s concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies.”
Dart had expressed concerns about the rally ahead of time, saying the pandemic was still a serious health threat and the indoor event posed a “huge risk” to the county.
“COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently,” Dart had said last month. “I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”
A reporter who attended the rally is among those who tested positive for the virus, along with two members of the Trump campaign. Six other campaign members tested positive before the event and were not allowed to attend.
Former presidential candidate Herman Cain and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the Trump campaign and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., both tested positive for the virus after attending the rally.
Morgan Chalfant contributed. Updated at 6:22 p.m.