Donald Trump's rally last weekend at Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center was two-thirds empty, which should have left plenty of room for attendees to practice social distancing. But attempting to maintain public health standards was never going to be on the menu for the event: Attendees were required to sign a waiver agreeing that they would not sue the campaign if they contracted the coronavirus, and an Oklahoma court declined to order the campaign to impose social distancing and mandate mask wearing at the rally.
So while the event thankfully saw a poor turnout, the people who did attend were clustered together instead of spreading throughout the venue in safer array. Reports from Billboard and The Washington Post may help explained why: Workers seem to have removed social distancing stickers from seats in the venue in the lead-up to the event.
The Post obtained video of volunteers peeling away "Do Not Sit Here, Please!" stickers that dotted every other seat in at least one section of the arena, while Doug Thornton, the executive vice president of the company that manages the BOK Center, told Billboard that the campaign "told us that they didn't want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue," and that it "went through and removed the stickers."
In a statement to The Washington Post, a Trump campaign spokesman described the rally as being "in full compliance with local requirements" and said that attendees had their temperatures checked before entering the venue, and were given masks and access to sanitizer. Temperature checks may largely amount to security theater, given the prevalence of asymptomatic transmission and the fact that not all COVID-19 patients develop fevers. And journalists at the rally reported that few attendees wore masks.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Tulsa was experiencing record increases in COVID-19 cases, but that it was too early to attribute the spike—which began before the rally occurred, and should have been reason enough to cancel it—to the event. On Friday, Paul Monies, a journalist for Oklahoma Watch, tweeted that he had tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the rally. Since attending the event with the president, dozens of Secret Service members were told to self-isolate.
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