By Brendan Cole, Newsweek, 6/20/20
head of his first large-scale campaign rally since the shutdown caused by the coronavirus, President Donald Trump said it is up to those attending whether or not they wear a mask as he promised a “wild evening.”
The event at Tulsa’s 19,000-capacity BOK Center will take place on Saturday as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Oklahoma and despite warnings from public health experts that it risks accelerating the spread of infection.
Trump defended holding the rally, telling Axios on Friday: “We have to get back to business. We have to get back to living our lives. Can’t do this any longer. And I do believe it’s safe. I do believe it’s very safe.”
The BOK Center has requested a written social distancing plan from Trump’s re-election campaign outlining how it would implement Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to mitigate the coronavirus risk.
The host of the rally said it would also carry out its own procedures, such as plexiglass partitions in some areas and regular cleaning throughout the event.
Masks will also be available at the event to every attendee. But Trump is not urging people to wear them, despite advice from the country’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, that people should have them on at large gatherings.
“If people want to wear masks I think that’s great. I won’t be. Not as a protest but I don’t feel that I’m in danger,” Trump said, describing masks as “a double-edged sword.”
“I recommend people do what they want.”
Protesters are expected to voice their opposition to Trump at the event, which was postponed by a day so as not to coincide with Juneteenth, a day that marks the official end of slavery in 1865.
On Friday, Trump suggested on Twitter that any demonstrators could expect the police to use force, saying “protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes” would not be treated “in the same way” as they had been in New York, Seattle, Minneapolis: “It will be a much different scene!”
Trump reiterated that he feels safe to hold the Tulsa rally despite the background of a rising number of new coronavirus cases in Oklahoma and other states nearby.
“I don’t feel that I’m in danger,” he told Axios. “I’ve met a lot, a lot of people, and so far here I sit.”