President Donald Trump's campaign says six staff members helping set up for his Saturday night rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have tested positive for coronavirus.
The campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, said in a statement that “quarantine procedures” were immediately initiated and no staff member who tested positive would attend the event. He said no one who had immediate contact with those staffers would attend, either.
Murtaugh said campaign staff members are tested for COVID-19 as part of the campaign's safety protocols.
Around 100,000 people from many states are expected in Tulsa for the rally and other events, and supporters — most without masks — were already beginning to fill streets Saturday around the stadium.
Campaign officials say everyone who is attending the rally will be given temperature checks before they pass through security. They will also be given masks to wear, if they want, and hand sanitizer at the 19,000-seat BOK Center.
Pressing ahead in a pandemic, President Trump looked to reverse a decline in his political fortunes by returning to the format that has so often energized him and his loyal supporters: a raucous, no-holds-barred rally before tens of thousands of ardent fans, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The rally was shaping up to be one of the biggest indoor events in the U.S. since large gatherings were shut down in March because of the coronavirus, and it was scheduled over the protests of local health officials and as COVID-19 cases spike in many states. The event was expected to draw crowds of protesters to the area as well.
“I think there's no question that indoor events are more risky than outdoor events. But we don’t really know how big that difference is. And certainly other aspects, like how tightly packed things are ... will make a big difference,” said Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Lessler said large events like the rally or the protests have the “potential to be super spreader events,” but their potential to drive the pandemic is short-lived.
“The larger factor is what happens when people go home," he said. "If everybody goes home and doesn’t respect the social distancing factors and goes out into the community, then they could push the spread.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a series of long-awaited guidelines earlier this month for large gatherings and other day-to-day activities. But the guidelines are “not intended to endorse any particular type of event,” the CDC’s Dr. Jay Butler said in a call with reporters.
On its website, the CDC recommends people consider whether an event they want to attend is outside or inside, noting indoor events are “more risky” because it might be harder to keep a safe distance from other people and because ventilation is poorer than outside.
Tulsa has seen cases of COVID-19 spike in the past week with 331 new COVID-19 cases across the state Saturday, bringing the total number of the state’s positive cases to 10,037. With these new numbers, the Oklahoma State Department of Health director asked that the rally be postponed but Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said it would be safe.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday denied a request that everyone attending the indoor rally wear a mask, and few in the crowd outside Saturday were wearing them.
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report.