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'Connect the Dots': Tulsa Health Official Points to Trump Rally as 'Likely' Source of Covid-19 Spike

"May this stand as wakeup call against future mass gatherings/rallies, especially without masks."

An audience members sits in the upper seats ahead of a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

 

President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20 is the "likely" source of an outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the area, the city's top health official said Wednesday, a warning to other cities planning on holding political gatherings for unmasked attendees collected indoors in the coming months leading up to November's general election. 

"The past two days we've had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right," said Dr. Bruce Dart, the director of the Tulsa Health Department, in a press conference on the city's outbreak. "So I guess we just connect the dots."

The rally appears to have had an effect on the region's number of cases. 

The Associated Press broke down the numbers:

Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday.

Trump's insistence on holding a rally in Tulsa despite warnings from health officals of the danger to public health was widely criticized . Masks were not required at the rally and the few thousand people that did show up for the most part were packed into an area in front of the stage. 

As the New York Times reported, officials are still struggling to track the disease's progression after the event:

Karen Keith, a county commissioner in Tulsa who oversees the area where the rally occurred, said in an interview on Wednesday that contact tracers were struggling to persuade people to reveal where they had been, frustrating local officials.

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She added that a surge in cases in rural parts of the state was most likely another indication that the rally could be responsible for the most recent outbreaks. Dr. Dart told The Tulsa World newspaper that he had examined Google mobility data for rally attendees, which offered a "ballpark" idea of where they had settled after the event.

While the Trump administration has downplayed the role of the rally itself in the outbreak—press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing Wednesday she had seen "no data" to indicate the event was responsible for the disease's spread—health experts are sounding the alarm.

"It is just so frustrating and sad to see needless infections," tweeted Harvard scientist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding. "May this stand as wakeup call against future mass gatherings/rallies, especially without masks. Please."

Republican and Democratic city officials in Jacksonville, Florida, where the Republican Party is scheduled to hold its convention in August, are increasingly worried about the event, they told the Daily Beast Thursday.

"In a normal situation, I would be glad for the RNC to come here, I would be the first one to be there," said city council vice president Sam Newby, a Republican who contracted the disease in March. "But with the spike of it, and I know what it can do, that's why I'm concerned about it coming to Jacksonville."

Those concerns were echoed by the council's Democratic president, Tommy Hazouri, who said that the party has not communicated its plans to the city with less than two months to go before the convention.

"They're not communicating with us about what they're doing," said Hazouri. "And I don't think it's particularly something that they're hiding. I think it's more that they don't know themselves what the RNC is doing."

Trump on Friday will hold an outdoor rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Masks will not be required. 

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