Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state is prepared for an increase in COVID-19 cases ahead of this weekend’s Trump campaign rally in Tulsa.
Numerous doctors and public health experts said the event, which is expected to draw more than 20,000 people into the BOK Center as well as an overflow facility, could lead to significant spread of the virus.
“Our hospital capacity is in really good shape,” Stitt said at a press conference Wednesday. “We have over 4,600 hospital beds available to meet that demand. So, Oklahomans: we remain well prepared.”
There is no requirement for attendees of the rally to wear face coverings or practice social distancing, two measures that health officials said are vital to curbing the spread of COVID-19. Since the beginning of June, the state department of health has regularly reported an increase in the number of new positive cases.
Anyone who is more susceptible to the virus, like older individuals or those with preexisting conditions, are asked to stay home to avoid risk.
“(COVID-19 is) still in Oklahoma, so we have to remain vigilant,” Stitt said.
On Wednesday, 259 new cases were confirmed by OSDH, a new single-day record for Oklahoma.
New hospitalizations have also increased, but not as significantly. Stitt said this is due to more recent cases involving younger people ages 18-35, who suffer more mild symptoms and effects from the virus compared to older individuals.
Click here for more information from OSDH.
Dr. James Phillips, an Oklahoma native, said an indoor rally “is literally the highest risk thing you can be a part of.”
Phillips is the Chief of Disaster Medicine in the George Washington University Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine. He said despite the slower increase of hospitalizations in Oklahoma, the risk of the virus spreading through the rally is significant.
“Please consider that, all politics aside, this is a very risky thing to do from a medical standpoint,” he said.
Oklahoma’s supply of Personal Protective Equipment is well stocked, Stitt said. According to OSDH, the stockpile of PPE has more than two weeks worth of masks, gowns, gloves and more.
Phillips said that could change if the virus runs rampant through the state, and eventually could threaten hospital workers. He said that more than 600 health care workers have already died from the virus.
“For all the people that are going out and enjoying their lives, in public and mass gatherings, expressing their freedom—just remember, that could kill me, and my friends and my colleagues.”
Stitt is scheduled to visit President Trump at the White House on Thursday. Stitt said he will be tested but is undecided on wearing a mask during his time in Washington D.C.