On the eve of US President Donald Trump’s much publicised re-election rally thousands of supporters have arrived in the city, with a distinct lack of face masks and social distancing.
Initial reports from downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma have described scenes in which hundreds of supporters have already began lining up outside the centre, huddling together to avoid the rain, openly chatting, sharing food, blankets and chairs, with the majority not wearing masks.
Speaking to NBC News, one elderly attendee, Mary Legan explained why she felt comfortable at the high-density event.
“When you’re in your 70s, you can’t go hide in your basement. You don’t have that many more years,” said the Oklahoma resident. “If Trump felt comfortable having it here, then I’m comfortable.”
Another Trump supporter in his 60s was also apathetic about contracting the virus which has killed over 121,000 Americans to date.
“I don’t fear anything. If today is the day I die, today is the day I die,” said David Riniker.
“I’m not paranoid, I’m not afraid.”
MASKS WILL NOT BE REQUIRED
Despite reports that coronavirus figures have been rising in 22 states, including Oklahoma, on Friday the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a request from local residents and business owners that would require attendees to wear face masks and maintain social distancing requirements inside the arena.
More than 100,000 people are expected to be in the area around Tulsa’s BOK centre, where the rally is taking place. Although the venue has a capacity of 19,000 people, Mr Trump’s re-election campaign said one million people have already registered tickets to the event.
Admission will work on a ‘first come, first served’ basis on the day of the event and it’s expected that attendees who will miss out on a ticket will continue to gather outside the centre.
Mr Trump, however, is not worried a possible spike in COVID-19 cases as a result of the rally.
“No because if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It’s dying out,” he told Gray Television in an interview on Wednesday.
“We’re not concerned. Actually Oklahoma has had a very low rate, relatively speaking. There’s a small spike for a specific reason.”
Supporters will be provided with hand sanitisers, temperature checks and masks, which they are not required to wear during the rally.
‘PERFECT STORM’ OF DISEASE TRANSMISSION
Although Trump supporters have flooded Tulsa in droves, there has been heavy opposition towards the rally.
Democratic minority leader in the Oklahoma House, Emily Virgin, has denounced the event, stating that the “resident, governor and mayor are … using the citizens of Oklahoma as guinea pigs”.
The head of Tulsa’s health department, Bruce Dart, has also expressed fears the event could become a “super spreader”
“It’s the perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission,” he said, vai the Kaiser Health News.
Just days prior to the rally on Friday, June 12, a Whirlpool plant in the city was temporarily closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The factory, which employees over 1600 workers, has remained shuttered since and it’s unclear how many people have been affected with the virus.
Currently there are 721 active cases of COVID-19 in Tulsa County, with the area reporting at daily increase rate of 10.24 per cent. Out of a total of 2070 confirmed cases there have been a total of 65 deaths.