White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly refused to say whether any health experts told President Donald Trump it was safe to hold a massive rally this weekend, falsely insisting to reporters Wednesday that his campaign was taking every possible safety precaution.
Trump’s planned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday will host up to 19,000 people indoors. The campaign event, the first such one Trump has held since coronavirus put the country on lockdown in March, is the exact type of mass gathering that public health experts warn is a hotbed for disease.
Pressed with several questions as to who told Trump it was safe to hold the rally, McEnany refused to say. Instead, she dismissed the public health risk with a misleading argument about personal choices.
“When you come to the rally, as with any event, you assume a personal risk,” she said. “That is just what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk. That’s part of life. It’s the personal decision of Americans whether to go to the rally or whether not go to the rally.”
But it’s not really just a personal risk. It’s all but guaranteed that those infected with COVID-19 at Trump’s rally will either go on to infect those who didn’t attend, take up the limited hospital space, or both.
And Oklahoma, which has been following a Trump-endorsed aggressive reopening plan, is already feeling the heat. The state recorded another single-day high in new cases with 259 recorded Wednesday. It marked the fourth time in the last six days that the state has broken its single-day high.
McEnany also told reporters that the campaign is “taking every single safety precaution that we can” at the rally and noted they will be providing masks, one of the best safeguards against spreading the disease. However, his campaign is not requiring people attending to actually wear them, and if his supporters follow Trump’s example, they won’t.
While McEnany wouldn’t say whether a medical expert told the Trump campaign his rally plans were safe, several have spoken out in recent days to say the opposite. One is Dr. Bruce Dart, the director of the Tulsa Health Department.
“COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently,” Dart told Tulsa World. “I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”
He continued, “I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, had an even bleaker take. “If you had to describe a worst-case scenario,” he said of the planned rally, “that would be it.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease official, said he would “of course not” attend Trump’s rally, noting that he’s in a high-risk age group. Fauci, the face of the once regularly appearing coronavirus task force, said he hasn’t even spoken to Trump in the last two weeks.
Trump’s campaign has also essentially admitted the rally isn’t safe, albeit unwittingly. On the registration page for the event, his supporters must agree to a legal disclaimer promising they won’t sue his campaign if they get COVID-19 as a result of attending.
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