President Donald Trump is hosting his first campaign rally since March Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event begins at 8 p.m. ET inside the BOK Center, an arena with 19,000 seats. The event will be live-streamed on YouTube. Although the event is taking place while more and more coronavirus cases are logged each day, many of Trump's supporters have been seen without facemasks and ignoring social distancing while waiting outside.
The rally, the first of its kind since March 2, was originally scheduled for Friday but was rescheduled after Trump was criticized for wanting to hold a campaign event on Juneteenth and while protests against racial injustice continued across the country. After it was rescheduled, the Trump campaign posted a message on its site, telling people who register they are voluntarily taking "all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury."
According to the New York Times, Trump will be joined by other elected officials. Vice President Mike Pence, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and almost a dozen House members will be there.
Health experts have repeatedly expressed concern about holding an indoor event of this scale while the pandemic rages. Even Dr. Deborah Brix and Dr. Anthony Fauci, members of the White House coronavirus task force, reportedly asked Trump to cancel the rally amid a spike in coronavirus cases in Oklahoma. A White House official told NBC News the doctors expressed their concerns, but members of the administration pointed out that Oklahoma is already in Phase 3 of re-opening, following the guidelines the task force put together.
Just hours before the rally, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said six campaign staffers tested positive "out of hundreds of tests performed, and quarantine procedures were immediately implemented." Those staffers and anyone who came into immediate contact with them will not be at the rally. They will also not be near any attendees and elected officials during the event.
Dr. Bruce Dart, the Tusla Health Department executive director, worried that the rally could be a "super spreader" and was concerned it could put an incredible burden on the city's hospital system, reports Tulsa World. "That’s our job, to stand up and try to do the right thing based on what the data and the science is telling us," Dart said. However, State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye argued that Oklahoma is "well prepared" compared to other states. On Saturday, there were 136 new coronavirus cases reported in Tulsa, the biggest single-day increase so far. There are 10,037 confirmed infections in the state, according to the state health department.