A surge in coronavirus cases in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma, is probably connected to the campaign rally President Donald Trump held there last month, the city’s top health official said Wednesday.
Tulsa County reported 206 new confirmed cases Tuesday and 261 — a record high — Monday, and Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, said at a news conference that it was reasonable to link the spike to the rally and related events.
“The past two days we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right,” Dart said. “So I guess we just connect the dots.”
The county has more infections right now than any other in Oklahoma, and “we’ve had some significant events in the past few weeks that more than likely contributed to that,” he added.
Dart spent much of the news conference pleading with Tulsans to wear face masks — which most attendees at Trump’s rally did not — and said the department would recommend requiring masks “if we continue to see an exponential rise in cases, which, frankly, we expect over the next few days.”
Asked whether contact tracing had confirmed a link between the rally and the increase in cases, Leanne Stephens, a spokeswoman for the health department, said it “will not publicly identify any individual or facility at risk of exposure or where transmission occurred.”
The county’s seven-day rolling average of new cases dipped briefly at the end of June before rising again and has been increasing fairly steadily since July 2. Trump held his rally June 20, and because of the incubation period between when people are infected and when they start showing symptoms, it can take around two weeks for a change in infection rates to become apparent.
Health officials were worried from the start about Trump’s decision to hold a large rally indoors — a much riskier environment than outdoors in terms of coronavirus transmission — in a state where coronavirus cases were already spiking.
A few days before the event, Dart urged the president to cancel, calling the rally a “perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission.”
When he said that, Tulsa County had just recorded 89 new cases in a day, a record high at the time. This week, the daily totals have been more than twice that.