The head of the Tulsa Health Department said he wishes an upcoming rally held by the Trump campaign would be postponed amid a surge in new coronavirus cases in the county.
In an interview with Tulsa World, Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, said Saturday an indoor rally set to attract tens of thousands of President Trump's supporters "is a huge risk factor."
"COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently," Dart said. "I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn't as large a concern as it is today."
Dart said it's an "honor" for a sitting president to visit Tulsa, just not in the midst of a pandemic.
"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," he told Tulsa World.
The coronavirus pandemic roiled the 2020 presidential campaign as Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, who clinched the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this month, were forced to forego in-person campaign events, including the president's signature campaign rallies.
Mr. Trump's last rally was in Charlotte, North Carolina, in early March, just as the coronavirus began rapidly spreading across the United States and governors ordered residents to remain in their homes and businesses to close their doors to the public.
But the president is set to resume his in-person campaign events Saturday with the campaign rally in Tulsa, which is expected to draw thousands. The rally was initially scheduled for Friday, but Mr. Trump delayed the event by a day after he and his campaign were criticized for holding it on the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., known as Juneteenth, and at the site of the single deadliest act of racial violence in U.S. history, known as the Greenwood Massacre.
While states have been loosening restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, health experts are cautioning against Mr. Trump holding the rally.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who led the Food and Drug Administration in the Trump administration, told "Face the Nation" on Sunday he "certainly would counsel against it."
"If I was giving advice to the administration on this, I would say that they should withhold large political rallies right now," he said. "They also need to lead by example, and so encouraging people to social distance, encouraging people to wear masks — that's what we should be engaging in right now."
There have been more than 2 million total cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and many states are seeing a surge in new infections, including Oklahoma. Tulsa County reports more than 1,500 confirmed cases, a 2.5% increase, and the county said there were 82 new cases as of Friday.
First published on June 15, 2020 / 8:43 AM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.