President Donald Trump’s controversial rally and other mass events in Tulsa last month “more than likely” contributed to a local surge in coronavirus cases, according to the health authorities in the southern US state of Oklahoma on Wednesday.
Tulsa County has seen record daily new COVID-19 cases this week, including 266 on Wednesday, after having witnessed a decline over the previous two weeks.
Several thousand supporters of the Trump defied the pandemic to attend the fiery rally last month, which was hyped as a major campaign relaunch ahead of the November election.
Tulsa health department director Bruce Dart said,”The past two 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”, adding that “So I guess we just connect the dots”.
People infected with COVID-19 can take around two weeks to display symptoms.
Six members of his own Tulsa advance team had tested positive for COVID-19 after the rally.
The rally has been controversial not just because of the virus risk. Originally it was scheduled for June 19 — the Juneteenth commemoration of the end of slavery in the US — in a city known for one of the deadliest-ever massacres of African Americans.
Earlier, Trump has claimed victory over the pandemic that has killed some 120,000 Americans, saying “I have done a phenomenal job with it!”
Several members of the Republican billionaire’s campaign team tested positive for the coronavirus before and after the rally, as did Secret Service agents.
The night of the rally, almost 1,000 counter-protesters also gathered in the city.
The Tulsa rally was Trump’s first such campaign event since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.