TULSA, Okla. (CN) — President Donald Trump brushed aside mounting criticism Monday for his plans to hold a mass campaign rally in Tulsa this weekend during the Covid-19 pandemic, promising to have health safeguards in place for attendees.
His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said there have been over 1 million requests for tickets to Saturday’s rally at the BOK Center. The basketball arena has a capacity of about 19,000. It can hold over 13,600 people in an end-stage configuration.
“Before entering each guest will get: temperature check, hand sanitizer [and a] mask,” Parscale tweeted Monday. “There will be precautions for the heat and bottle water as well.”
The announcement comes four days after the campaign was panned for requiring attendees to agree to a liability waiver where they “voluntarily assume all risk related” to virus exposure and agree not to hold Trump’s campaign or the arena liable for infection.
“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to Covid-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the waiver states.
Oklahoma has reported 8,417 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 359 deaths since the pandemic forced mass closures and stay-at-home orders beginning in March, according to the state’s Department of Health.
The planned rally will defy guidelines from the Trump administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has deemed as highest risk “large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.”
Locals have forcefully pushed back against plans for the rally. Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, cited a “significant increase in our case trends” in wishing Trump’s campaign would delay the rally. The BOK Center had previously cancelled or delayed all events until July to mitigate the spread.
“I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event,” he said Saturday. “I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.”
The Tulsa World newspaper blasted the planned rally in a Monday morning editorial, saying “we can’t see any way that his visit will be good” for the city and that “this is the wrong time.”
“The city and state have authorized reopening, but that doesn’t make a mass indoor gathering of people pressed closely together and cheering a good idea,” the editorial states. “There is no treatment for Covid-19 and no vaccine. It will be our health care system that will have to deal with whatever effects follow. The public health concern would apply whether it were Donald Trump, Joe Biden or anyone else who was planning a mass rally at the BOK.”
The newspaper also said “this is the wrong place for the rally,” acknowledging the symbolism of the event taking place in a city 99 years after mobs of white people indiscriminately attacked and murdered black residents in the city’s Greenwood district. The Tulsa race massacre has often been cited during mass protests across the United States the past three weeks over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“When the president of the United States visits your city, it should be exciting,” the editorial states. “We think a Trump visit will be, but for a lot of the wrong reasons, and we can’t welcome it.”
Trump has already rescheduled the planned rally once, as he faced harsh criticism for originally scheduling it on the June 19 Juneteenth holiday celebrating the end of slavery in America. Critics say it was a direct counterpunch to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racial profiling.
“Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents,” Trump tweeted Friday. “I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests.”