Trump campaign to provide optional masks at rally, some still fear massive crowds could spread COVID-19

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TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Republican Party announced Monday that the Trump campaign will be providing masks and hand sanitizer at the Saturday’s Trump rally in Tulsa, but with so many people saying they plan to attend, there are still concerns the large crowds the rally will draw could contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

“I saw the progress that we made in Oklahoma to control it, and I couldn’t see how a rally like that with people so close together, and so many of them could do anything but reduce the good things we’ve done,” said retired firefighter and lifelong Republican Robert McMahon.

The 70-year-old said he doesn’t fear the virus, but he does have a respect for it, and he has deep concerns about what a Trump rally will do in the pandemic.

“If somebody comes from Texas or New Mexico to this rally, they may bring the virus with them or they may take it back with them,” McMahon said. “So it doesn’t stop in Oklahoma and it doesn’t stop in Tulsa.”

Oklahoma, along with other states, is already seeing cases spike and trend upward over the past week.

While the pandemic has caused the postponement of all other events at Tulsa’s BOK Center through to the end of July, so far, neither plans, nor RSVPs for the rally appear to be hindered.

“Coming out of COVID-19, our president’s very first rally, in excess of 800,000 people, it’s historic, have signed up to come to this rally and this event,” said Oklahoma GOP chairman David McLain.

The president tweeted the number of those interested is “Almost One Million.”

McLain announced the Trump campaign will be taking temperatures at the door, and providing hand sanitizer and masks for optional use to everyone who enters the BOK Center.

“All of us being adults, and respectful adults, will be able to manage themselves on when they feel they should have their mask on, and when they should take their mask off,” McLain said. “I haven’t heard of any policy of mandatory mask wearing at this point but that’s fluid and could possibly change.”

So far, there are no plans for social distancing measures inside the arena.

“The BOK, I believe, seats 20,000 people and I believe it is the intent to fill the BOK up with people,” McLain said.

McLain said he believes overflow will go into the Cox Center next-door to the BOK Center, and that there will likely be some guest speakers who would make an appearance there.

But McMahon is asking state leaders, and the president, to consider the possible health affects for even those who choose to stay home, saying neighbors who might get infected will bring the virus to the grocery stores, restaurants, and other public places they disperse to after the rally is long over.

“People get sick and people die from this,” McMahon said, “so I think that as Oklahomans we should do whatever we can to protect not only ourself but our neighbors.”

Monday morning, Nondoc quoted Gov. Stitt regarding the choice of the BOK Center for the event, saying “I’m looking for another potential venue where we could move it outside,” Stitt said. “We are trying to take every safety precaution possible.”

However, when News 4 asked Stitt’s office to confirm that information, a spokesperson said, “Our office is not involved in discussions regarding venues.”

KFOR also reached out to the Tulsa Health Department for their recommendations for Saturday and they replied with the following:

As the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person-to-person, the Tulsa Health Department is concerned about the safety of any large gathering of people in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
The Tulsa Health Department encourages Tulsa County residents and visitors to continue to follow public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
Everyone is advised to practice personal responsibility by wearing a cloth face covering in public and practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet away from other people. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 
According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. 
Anyone who is sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and contact their health care provider. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. These symptoms include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The Tulsa Health Department continues to offer specimen collection for COVID-19 testing by appointment only. Call 918-582-9355 to speak to a public health professional.

The rally is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the BOK Center. Admittance is on a first come, first served basis.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, the president said the convention hall (the Cox Center) near the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa will be used, increasing total capacity to 62,000 for his first campaign rally since early March.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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