Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned White House officials of the serious health risks posed by the massive Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this Saturday, NBC News reported on Friday.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the COVID-19 response coordinator of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, also raised concerns about the rally, two sources familiar with the discussions told NBC.
As many as 19,000 people could be crammed into a Tulsa arena while others are expected to crowd outside. It may be the largest national gathering held in the U.S. during the COVID-19 crisis to date, with few to no health protections required.
NBC reported that Trump and his campaign advisers have responded to health experts’ warnings by saying that participants choose to “assume a personal risk” by attending the event, and “that is part of life.” (That is not true, however, of everyone who will later come into contact with those rally attendees.)
In a legal disclaimer on the registration web page for the rally, participants are warned that catching COVID-19 is “an inherent risk” of attending the event and they must agree not to sue the president if they contract the disease.
Trump has done away with coronavirus briefings in which health experts speak directly to the public about COVID-19. But Fauci has been vocal in several media interviews about the continuing deadly risk of contracting the disease, especially in mass gatherings.
When The Daily Beast asked in an interview Tuesday if he would attend such a rally, Fauci responded: “Of course not,” citing the danger. Last week, he said on ABC News that any large group setting remains “risky” and “a danger” — and noted that Americans should avoid all big gatherings, period.
The Trump rally is going ahead despite a record spike in COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma, with a concentration of new cases in Tulsa. There was a 100% spike in Tulsa County just this week, the highest in the state. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, pleaded with the Trump campaign in vain on Wednesday to postpone the event.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a request Friday to require everyone at the rally to wear a face mask or maintain six feet of social distancing, which is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In another COVID-19 warning, Fauci told CNN Thursday that the National Football League season can’t safely get underway unless players are tested daily and are “essentially in a bubble,” insulated from the community.
Trump’s increasingly dismissive attitude about Fauci’s expertise was apparent on Twitter when he snapped back Friday that “Tony Fauci has nothing to do with the NFL,” before throwing in a barb about players’ peaceful protests against police brutality.