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Ignoring new data showing a dramatic spike in new cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are pressing ahead with a planned rally on Saturday in Tulsa.
“Oklahoma has really been in the forefront of our efforts to slow the spread, and, in a very real sense, they flattened the curve, and today their hospital capacity is abundant,” Pence said Monday at a White House roundtable discussion with the president on senior citizens. “The number of cases in Oklahoma is declining precipitously, and we feel very confident going forward.”
Pence, who headed the administration’s coronavirus task force, also said for the first time he would attend the rally.
His remarks echoed those made by Trump last week.
“They’ve done a great job with COVID, as you know, in the state of Oklahoma,” Trump told reporters Wednesday about his decision to jump-start his indoor campaign rallies despite the ongoing pandemic.
In truth, Oklahoma has not flattened the curve since a relative dip in late May. While Oklahoma reported just 41 new cases of COVID-19 on May 28, the lowest number it had recorded since late March, the number of positive tests has risen since then. Over the weekend, the state set records for the number of new cases on both Saturday (222) and Sunday (225). On Monday, the state reported another 186 new cases.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) June 15, 2020
To date, Oklahoma has conducted 234,586 COVID-19 tests, and the overall positive rate has been below 5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Oklahoma is one of 21 states that have seen coronavirus infections rise since Memorial Day weekend, when governors across the nation began loosening social distancing orders. Since then, large protests erupted in cities and towns across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, worrying health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci about a resurgence of the virus.
While the Trump campaign says it will check those attending the president’s Tulsa rally at the BOK Center for fever upon entry, the CDC estimates that 35 percent of people currently carrying the COVID-19 virus are asymptomatic and presumably unaware they have been infected. The World Health Organization said last week that it still didn’t know the rate of asymptomatic transmission of the virus.
The Trump campaign has said it has so far received more than 1 million requests for tickets to next Saturday’s rally. Since the BOK Center only holds 19,000 people, Trump said Monday that up to 40,000 additional attendees would be admitted to the Tulsa convention center to watch a simulcast of his speech. But that venue, which was renamed the Cox Business Convention Center in 2013, only has a capacity of 8,900.
“We expect to have, you know, it’s like a record-setting crowd,” Trump said. “We’ve never had an empty seat and we certainly won’t in Oklahoma.”
The virus is especially contagious in indoor settings, health experts say. The Trump campaign, which required those signing up for tickets to click an online liability waiver acknowledging the risk of contracting COVID-19, is planning on distributing face masks and hand sanitizer to attendees.
“We’ll have measures in place to be screening people coming into the facilities, but Oklahoma has really led the way in demonstrating that we can safely reopen,” Pence said.
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