Oklahoma health officials warned that holding an indoor rally could lead to more coronavirus cases and deaths, according to internal state documents.
The Hill reports that state officials raised all sorts of concerns before President Donald Trump held his Tulsa rally on June 20.
In an email titled “How strongly do I speak out?” the Department of Health’s then-epidemiologist Aaron Wendelboe wrote he had a “responsibility to speak out and warn of the estimated risk.”
“I am concerned that the mass indoor gathering in Tulsa of 19,000 people will directly lead to deaths in Oklahoma,” Wendelboe wrote in the email.
He estimated the rally would lead to “at least 2 deaths and probably closer to 10.”
In another email he wrote to Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart five days before the event, he brought up his death prediction again.
“I’m not sure of any instance where we would hold a public event and say, ‘...and by the way, there is a chance that attending this could lead to a minimum of two deaths,’” he wrote.
On June 12, Dart said he had concerns about the rally in a press release. The release noted that Tulsa had “reported its highest daily increase of COVID-19 cases to date,” which was just eight days before the event. On June 13, Dart asked for the rally to be postponed.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, about 6,200 people attended the president’s rally. It is unknown how many coronavirus cases can be linked to the rally. But there was at least one death from someone in attendance. Herman Cain was hospitalized about two weeks after he attended the rally. He died from COVID-19 complications.
According to The Hill, it is unclear whether the epidemiologist’s concerns were shared with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who invited the president to the city. In July, Stitt announced he had coronavirus but said he didn’t get it at the rally.
A June statement from the Trump campaign noted that several staffers working on the advance team for the rally tested positive for COVID-19 and were immediately quarantined.
Ahead of the event, documents obtained by The Hill show officials worked to send out messaging to rallygoers to get tested ahead of the event.
One email stated it was necessary to “test as many Tulsa residents as possible prior to the Presidential visit.”
Before the event, emails from outside public health experts put pressure on state health officials to stop the event.
“The upward trend in Tulsa is already alarming,” an email stated. “Act now before the situation gets worse. Postponing President Trump’s rally will save countless lives.”
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