As tens of thousands converge on Tulsa for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign rally Saturday, they enter a city that has seen one of the biggest COVID-19 spikes in Oklahoma in the past several weeks.
The latest State Department of Health data show that several Tulsa zip codes were among the state’s biggest COVID-19 hot spots over the past week, from June 12-19.
That includes a zip code in southern Tulsa – one that contains Oral Roberts University – that has been one of the hardest hit areas of the state. Total cumulative cases there rose from 119 to 209 over the seven-day period.
In the area just south of there, which extends into Jenks, the number of confirmed cases more than doubled, from 78 to 179, within a week.
Like in other southern and western states, Oklahoma has seen a resurgence of the virus in some areas and a leveling off or decline in others.
The state recorded several record-breaking totals of daily cases this week, including 450 new cases on Thursday.
On Saturday, Oklahoma added 331 cases as the state eclipsed 10,000 cumulative cases for the first time. The state also hit a new record for its seven-day rolling average of new cases on Saturday.
No place has been hit as hard as Tulsa County.
Since the pandemic began, the county has recorded 2,070 cases – more than 20% of the state’s total. It has also seen 65 deaths, putting it in a tie with Oklahoma County for the most in the state.
Concerns about the spread of the infectious disease, which has already killed nearly 120,000 in the United States, have persisted since Trump announced he would hold the rally at the 19,000-seat BOK Center earlier this week.
It will be the largest indoor event since the pandemic started triggering stay-at-home orders and closures in states in early spring. In addition to a likely filled arena, tens of thousands of Trump supporters and an unknown number of protesters are expected to converge on downtown Tulsa.
Both Trump and Gov. Kevin Stitt, who will attend the rally, have repeatedly said that the event will be safe, but is a personal choice.
“We just believe in freedoms in Oklahoma. If you want to wear a mask, we want you to do it,” Stitt said Friday during a Fox News interview. “If you feel safer at home, we don’t want you to come to that rally. But if you do feel OK, we want you to come to the rally and have a good time. We are going to be very safe, and we think it’s the right time.”
Health officials, medical experts and Democrats have sounded alarms, saying the rally is irresponsible because it poses potentially deadly health risks for attendees and their families, friends and others with whom they are in contact.
Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, told the Tulsa World earlier this week that he would prefer Trump postpone the rally.
“I want people to be safe, and it hurts my heart to think that there’s a potential that we’re going to have something here where people become exposed to an illness,” he said. “We’ve seen how devastating it’s been across the board in this country, and I don’t want it to happen to anybody here.”
A pair of lawsuits this week attempted to force the BOK Center to cancel the event or require safety precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing. Both were rejected, clearing the way for the rally to proceed.