Attendees at President Donald Trump’s rally scheduled for Saturday will not be required to maintain social distance or wear masks, even as the administration’s top public health officials continue to stress the importance of both measures in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Trump is set to hold his first rally on Saturday since March, when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to all in-person campaign events. The rally will take place at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which has a capacity of just under 20,000. The campaign says it is expecting a full house.
“It is a Trump rally, the arena will be packed,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign. The BOK Center has canceled or postponed every other scheduled event through the end of July.
Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted on Monday that the campaign plans to check the temperature of everyone who enters the venue. They will also be providing hand sanitizer, and each attendee will receive a mask provided by the campaign, although they will not be required to wear it. Trump has notably declined to wear a mask in public.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in places where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. In its online guidance for face coverings, the CDC also writes, “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.”
The Tulsa Health Department said in a statement obtained Sunday by CNN that it is “concerned about the safety of any large gathering of people in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain.”
The department last week encouraged caution regarding large gatherings after an investigation in Tulsa “identified an outbreak linked to indoor gatherings, which large groups of people congregated in close contact for prolonged periods of time.”
There was a “meaningful increase” in cases of coronavirus last week in the city, according to the statement. As of Friday, there had been 1,443 total confirmed cases of coronavirus in Tulsa County, and 62 deaths.
Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Dart told the Tulsa World newspaper over the weekend that he wishes the campaign would push back the date of the event.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, specifically warned about the dangers of gatherings like the rally.
“When you’re in a large crowd, if you have the congregation of people that are much, much closer to each other, you definitely increase the risk that you will either acquire or spread infections,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Friday night.
Campaign officials tell CNN they have not considered postponing the rally and are actively exploring a second venue somewhere in Tulsa for the President to appear in person to satisfy those who were interested in seeing the President speak. During a roundtable at the White House on Monday, the President said that his campaign had secured a nearby venue that will allow for an additional 40,000 people to see him speak.
The campaign is actively encouraging as many people as possible to RSVP to attend. The RSVPs are not tickets, and a ticket is not required for admission. Entry into the rally is first come, first serve, and the campaign is expecting rallygoers to begin lining up outside the venue well in advance of the Saturday event.
CNN’s Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.