Six Trump campaign staffers test positive for coronavirus ahead of Tulsa rally

Monday, 22 Jun, 2020

"I just know we have limitations on the number of people that can gather and that we're taking this seriously".

US President Donald Trump held his first rally in more than three months in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday evening, amid coronavirus concerns and a national reckoning over racism.

"These people are sick, the fake news", Trump said referring to different reports suggesting the president may have been unwell and referencing his age.

Biden's campaign said that the loss of almost 120,000 Americans to the virus and skyrocketing unemployment is blamed in a large part on Trump's leadership and failure to quickly mobilize mass testing.

The rally originally was planned for Friday, but was moved after complaints that it coincided with Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the U.S. and in a city that was the site of a 1921 race-related massacre, when a white mob attacked Blacks, leaving as many as 300 people dead. "We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out".

"In an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight's debacle of a rally, President Trump just admitted that he's putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people - even as we just recorded the highest number of new Covid-19 cases in nearly two months and 20 million workers remain out of work", according to the Biden campaign's statement.

A White House official later said the president was "obviously kidding" about Covid-19 testing.

She told Newstalk Breakfast: "It's wonderful the number of things that this administration declares are sarcasm or joking or whatever - "fake news" - when it doesn't come out the way [it wants]". But he did add new fuel to the nation's culture wars, defending Confederate statues while making racist references to the coronavirus, which originated in China and which he called "kung flu".

"'Oh, it's a joke' - it's not a joke".

Attendees were required to sign a waiver protecting organisers from any liability in the event Covid-19 spreads at the venue.

Some feared the rally could become a coronavirus "super spreader" event.

"The organisers of the Trump team were dismantling the stages that had been set outside". In 1921, Tulsa was the scene of a massacre in which white mobs attacked black people and businesses, killing an estimated 300 people. Quarantine procedures for those employees were immediately implemented, said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump's campaign.

"But this disease is not over".

"The silent majority is stronger than ever before", Trump said in a rowdy, freewheeling speech in which he blasted his 2020 election rival, Democrat Joe Biden, as a "helpless puppet of the radical left". Local health officials warned that holding a massive gathering at a 19,000-person indoor arena only increased the risk of coronavirus spreading.

The stadium has a capacity of 19,000 but organisers had said only 10,000 people would be allowed to enter. If early evidence holds true, some of the social media world's youngest audience may have skewed Trump's campaign (or rendered its attendance guidance useless) without leaving home.

But his intended show of political force amid a pandemic featured thousands of empty seats and new coronavirus cases on his own campaign staff. When the protesters blocked an intersection, a man wearing a Trump shirt got out of a truck and spattered them with pepper spray. But the small crowds of pre-rally demonstrators were largely peaceful, and Tulsa police reported just one arrest Saturday afternoon.

This is the first of Trump's signature rallies since March 2, when the country went into pandemic lockdown.