After months away from the campaign trail, President Trump plans to rally his supporters this coming Saturday for the first time since most of the country was shuttered by the coronavirus. Trump will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma—a state that has seen relatively few COVID-19 cases, the AP reports. But health experts question the decision, citing the danger of infection spreading among the crowd and sparking outbreaks when people return to their homes. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard's Global Health Institute, called the upcoming Trump rally "an extraordinarily dangerous move for the people participating and the people who may know them and love them and see them afterward." Among the issues:
- Why high risk: Trump's rally will be held indoors, at a 19,000-seat arena that has canceled all other events through the end of July. Scientists believe the virus spreads far more easily in crowded enclosed spaces than it does outdoors, where circulating air can disperse particles more easily.
- Oklahoma rules: In its final phase of reopening, Oklahoma now allows public gatherings of any size as long as organizers consider social distancing. Participants at any large gathering should stay 6 feet apart and wear a cloth face covering when distancing is a challenge, the state health department said.
- Masks and precautions: The Trump campaign has declined to respond to repeated questions about whether it will require attendees to wear masks, socially distance, or take other measures to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Trump has made clear that he believes empty seats are bad optics: "I can't imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full. ... That wouldn’t look too good," he said in April.
- Why now? Trump has been eager to resume the rallies that are the centerpiece of his campaign. The rallies also help his campaign expand its voter databases and will serve as a contrast to Democratic challenger Biden, who has suspended campaign events because of the virus and hasn't attracted the same size of crowds.
(The Trump campaign is also protecting itself with a waiver.)