Ahead of his highly controversial rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, six members of Donald Trump's campaign staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to NBC News. The campaign released a statement about the positive tests on Saturday, adding that they have been testing several times ahead of the rally in an effort to keep the rally on schedule.
The rally in Tulsa is Trump's first since March 2 and spawned controversy almost immediately after its announcement. Oklahoma's coronavirus infections saw a 100 percent spike in Tulsa the week ahead of the rally. Many Trump supporters descended on the town, leaving some officials and residents fearing a "superspreader" event.
"Six members of the advance team tested positive out of hundreds of tests performed, and quarantine procedures were immediately implemented," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said according to NBC News. "No COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today’s rally or near attendees and elected officials."
This news follows a slew of warnings and concerns over the rally. Many have criticized the president for hosting a rally in an "inclosed 19,000-seat arena" in the city. Those attending had to sign a digital waiver that released the campaign and President Trump of liability related to the coronavirus, all while Trump refuses to wear a mask and told those in attendance that masks weren't required.
Reports on Friday noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx spoke with the president behind-the-scenes in the past week over the Oklahoma rally. They raised questions over the safety at such an event, especially in relation to Oklahoma's rising infection rate. Tulsa officials announced on Saturday that it had 136 new coronavirus cases, the highest they've reported in a single day according to NBC News.
Despite this, Murtaugh added that precautions are being taken at the rally despite the public protests of Trump related to COVID-19 guidelines. "As previously announced, all rally attendees are given temperature checks before going through security, at which point they are given wristbands, facemasks and hand sanitizer," he said in the statement.
The president and his supporters have been difficult over the coronavirus and the CDC guidelines since the switch from combating the virus to "opening the economy" after financial panic started to spread globally. None of this is new for Trump and his messaging on the virus. He has been wary of treating it seriously since it first sprouted, repeatedly claiming his decision to close flights from China was the main reason our initial infection numbers were low. Trump is sure to address the virus during his rally at 7 p.m. ET.