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Tulsa health official says Trump rally "likely contributed" to spike in coronavirus cases

"Explosively large" surge in COVID cases
"Explosively large" surge in COVID cases 08:43

A top health official in Tulsa said Wednesday that President Trump's campaign rally in the city in late June, as well as the protests that accompanied it, "more than likely contributed" to a spike in coronavirus cases in the area.

"In the past few days, we've seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots," Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart told reporters on Wednesday. According to the Associated Press, Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, and 206 cases on Tuesday.

At least eight Trump campaign advance staffers and two Secret Service agents who worked in Tulsa ahead of the rally have tested positive for the virus. Although attendees had their temperature checked and masks were provided, social distancing was largely not observed and wearing masks was not mandatory.

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Tulsa
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Win McNamee/Getty Images

Herman Cain — 2012 presidential candidate co-chair of the "Black Voices for Trump" coalition — has spent the past week in an Atlanta-area hospital after coming down with the virus. The Trump campaign surrogate was pictured not wearing a mask at the president's Tulsa rally.

Top fundraising official for the Trump campaign and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, cancelled a string of Trump campaign fundraisers after testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of Mr. Trump's remarks at Mount Rushmore. Last month, Ms. Guilfoyle attended the president's rally in Tulsa, as well as his official White House remarks in another COVID-19 hotspot, Phoenix.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday that she has "no data to indicate" that the rally led to a surge in coronavirus cases. McEnany also noted that masks were distributed at the rally.

"We hand them out, they are handed out by the campaign, rather, at these events, and there is ample hand sanitizer and it's people's individual choice as to whether to go," she said.

In a statement, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh criticized media outlets for reporting about a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found that nationwide protests against police brutality and racial violence had not led to a spike in cases.

"There were literally no health precautions to speak of as thousands looted, rioted, and protested in the streets and the media reported that it did not lead to a rise in coronavirus cases. 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. It's obvious that the media's concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies," Murtaugh said.

Mr. Trump will hold a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Saturday in an outdoor venue. According to a statement released by the Trump campaign, the outdoor event will feature "ample access to hand sanitizer" and all attendees "will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear."  New Hampshire does not have a statewide mandate requiring masks, but the president's reelection team will mandate that all campaign staff wear masks inside the rally in Portsmouth, Saturday night.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told reporters Tuesday he plans to wear a mask while greeting the president, Saturday. "We hear from the Trump campaign that they'll be there wearing masks," he added.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 3 million on Wednesday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. The virus has killed more than 131,000 people nationwide.

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