Health officials express concern, encourage mask usage ahead of Trump Tulsa rally

4 months ago 29
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June 14 (UPI) -- U.S. officials on Sunday encouraged the use of face coverings and observing social distancing procedures as some expressed concern about potential coronavirus spread during a rally for President Donald Trump scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Trump is set to hold his first rally since the onset of shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in March at the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday.

The Bank of Oklahoma has a capacity of 20,000 people but Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Sunday that 800,000 people have signed up to attend the event. Attendees who signed up to attend were required to sign a waiver stating the Trump campaign is not liable if they become ill.

The venue has canceled all upcoming events, with the exception of the rally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, told local newspaper Tulsa World that he wishes the rally would be rescheduled for a later date sighting a "significant increase in our case trends" as the state reported 225 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. The state has 359 deaths.

"I think it's an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic," Dart said. "I'm concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event and I'm also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well."

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told CNN's State of the Union he had not yet decided if he would wear a mask at Saturday's stating that mask usage in the state is not common given a general decline in cases despite a spike in the past week.

"There are still some that use masks," he said. "But we encourage people strongly if they're high-risk individuals, if they're older individuals, if they have other health issues, not to get out even with a mask."

Trump has also repeatedly chosen not to wear face coverings in public settings including press conferences and other speaking events.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams tweeted Sunday that face coverings are important to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing more businesses and other services to reopen as quickly as possible.

"Just a reminder -- wearing a face covering is a small inconvenience that provides big benefits and gives us our best chance for an effective and lasting reopening of America," he wrote. "If everyone does their part to slow the spread, everyone wins."

In a separate tweet, Adams addressed some Americans who feel that face coverings "infringe on their freedom of choice" saying that masks are particularly important for preventing asymptomatic spread.

"Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a face covering!" Adams wrote.

White Hous economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, also encouraged the use of face coverings and other social distancing procedures to ensure a faster and sustained reopening.

"People must observe the safety guidelines, OK, must," Kudlow told CNN's State of the Union. "Face coverings in key places must be observed."

Host Jake Tapper then asked if attendees at Trump's rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday should wear masks to which Kudlow responded "Probably so."

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