Is it safe to go to a Donald Trump rally?

Is it safe to go to a Donald Trump rally
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)
  • The highest risk of catching COVID-19 are at ‘large in-person gatherings’
  • Rallygoers have to sign a waiver saying they won’t sue Trump
  • Trump’s first rally will be June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Multiple experts say they do not recommend attending large gatherings indoors—like, for example, campaign rallies hosted by President Donald Trump—because the COVID-19 threat still poses a considerable threat.

Trump currently plans to resume his campaigns on June 20 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he’ll continue his tour June 11 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The BOK Center has a capacity of more than 19,000 seats, and it’s unclear how many people will be allowed to attend—although Trump boasted on June 15 that “almost one million” people have requested tickets. When attendees register for tickets, they must acknowledge that there is an “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19.” 

“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” the statement says. 

The Tulsa City-County Health Department Director, Dr. Bruce Dart, told the Tulsa World that he wishes the Trump campaign would postpone the rally because he thinks it doesn’t just pose a threat for attendees but also the president (here’s what could happen if Trump caught the coronavirus).

 “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.”

Like many parts of the U.S., Tulsa has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. On Saturday, it reached a new high in daily increases with 225 positive tests. The Tulsa Health Department reported on June 15 that the city has had 1,564 COVID-19 infections since the outbreak began at the beginning of 2020. 

The Tulsa Health Department attributes community spread as the main reason for the surge in positive test results. Dart told the newspaper he believes the risk posed by the Trump rally is severe enough that it could overwhelm local hospitals. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines events with the highest risk of transmission as: “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, and attendees travel from outside the local area.” 

Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston University School of Medicine, told the New York Times that attending a campaign rally could be more dangerous than attending a Black Lives Matter protest. That’s because the rally will be indoors and doesn’t require attendees to wear masks, whereas protests are outdoors and it’s easier to social distance from those who don’t have a face covering. 

“It’s a perfect storm setup: the idea of tons of people, where one sick person can have an impact of generating secondary cases on this immense level, where it’s indoors, where there’s no ventilation,” Bhadelia said. “I would move it to the outdoors, I would reduce the number of people, I would introduce social distancing, and I would require everybody to wear a mask.”

Trump does not agree with health officials and tweeted on June 15 that the media was trying to “shame” him. 

“The Far Left Fake News Media, which had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters killing Democrat run cities, is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies,” he tweeted. “Won’t work!” 

But on June 16, two prominent health officials urged people to be careful. Dr. Lance Frye, the Oklahoma health commissioner, urged people older than 65 to avoid the rally, saying, “If you are a part of a vulnerable population group, to include being of the age 65 and older, or are immunocompromised, please stay home and seek out alternative options to enjoy the event.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the White House’s coronavirus response team, was asked if he would hypothetically attend a Trump rally. The 79-year-old Fauci responded by saying, via NBC News, “I’m in a high-risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not.”

On July 30, it was announced that former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who attended the rally in Tulsa, had died from the coronavirus.

Is it safe:

Sources: Tulsa World, Tulsa Health Department, New York Times, CDC

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