(Reuters) – A controversial campaign rally held by President Donald Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month likely contributed to a rise in the number of coronavirus cases there, a top local health official said on Wednesday.
Tulsa has confirmed hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 over the past two days, said Dr. Bruce Dart, health director for the city and county.
Asked by a reporter if Trump’s campaign event at the Bank of Oklahoma Center on June 20 could be responsible for that surge, he said: “In the past few 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. So I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said, apparently referring to the rally and accompanying protests.
Dart cautioned that several more days of results would be needed to determine if the spike represented a trend.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said she had not seen data to support Dart’s conclusions.
“There were 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,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.
“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.
Trump, a Republican, came under sharp criticism for holding the campaign event, his first in nearly three months, at a nearly 20,000-seat indoor arena during the pandemic. The campaign had predicted the rally would draw a record turnout. Instead, there were many empty seats.
Democrats also suggested that the rally was poorly timed following weeks of protests over the death of a Black man, George Floyd, under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)