Tulsa Sets Coronavirus Case Record As Trump Rallygoers Dispute Health Risks

Tulsa County set a third-straight daily record for new coronavirus cases this weekend just as thousands of rallygoers descend upon the city for President Donald Trump's first campaign rally in months.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said statewide total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began in March surpassed 10,000 over the weekend, with 331 new positive cases being reported since Friday. In Tulsa County, the site of Trump's Saturday rally at the BOK Center, 136 new positive cases and one additional death were reported.

Health officials did not tie the political rally to the sudden burst of new COVID-19 cases, but supporters of the president in line for the sold-out event embraced Trump's flippant view of the coronavirus pandemic overall.

One rallygoer who was decked out in Trump re-election clothing - but no mask - told MSNBC Saturday morning that he had a friend who died from coronavirus. But the man added that scientific data about health risks are simply part of a political game.

"We had a friend who died from Covid, and his son was on a ventilator, he almost died. So we know it's real, but then at the same time you don't know what the facts are, you feel like maybe one side plays it one way and the other side plays it another," the man said outside the Tulsa venue, which is screening attendees' temperatures at the gates.

Anticipating a "wild evening" ahead of Saturday's rally, the president told Axios he recommends "people do what they want" in terms of wearing masks or attending. Dozens of Trump supporters have waited for more than 24 hours outside the venue, which seats up to 19,000 people. Asked if he believes holding such a large rally is safe, Trump said Friday, "We have to get back to business. We have to get back to living our lives. I do believe it's safe. I do believe it's very safe."

"You know, there was a time when people thought it was worse wearing a mask," he continued. "I let people make up their own decision."

Despite the dispute from supporters of the president, NBC News reported Saturday that six Trump campaign staffers tested positive in Tulsa ahead of the rally. The Oklahoma rally is Trump's first large-scale public campaign event since March 2, prior to most of the country enacting quarantine measures due to the pandemic.

Tulsa Health Department Director, Dr. Bruce Dart, told Tulsa Public Radio they are watching the upward surge in coronavirus cases closely, describing the hospital system as being in "pretty good shape." But he noted, "we have no idea where they're going to be at after we see what happens two weeks from now with what's going to be occurring this weekend."

In total, 7,414 Oklahoma residents have recovered from the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of 368 people statewide. Oklahoma health officials have recorded 1,228 people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 since March.

Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign for additional comments Saturday afternoon. The rally is set to start at 7 p.m. local time.

tulsa county coronavirus cases rally
Tulsa County set a third-straight daily record for new coronavirus cases this weekend just as thousands of rallygoers descend upon the city for President Donald Trump's first campaign rally in months. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Contributor/Getty Images