Dr. Fauci, health officials flag coronavirus risk of Trump’s Tulsa rally


President Donald Trump points toward the crowd during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally at BancorpSouth Arena on November 1, 2019 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Brandon Dill | Getty Images

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci as well as other health officials are raising concerns that President Donald Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa will become a hotbed for coronavirus infections.

The rally, Trump’s first since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. over three months ago, is slated to take place Saturday in a 20,000-person indoor arena.

Asked whether he would attend the rally, Fauci said in an interview published late Tuesday by the Daily Beast, “of course not,” adding that when it comes to mass gatherings, “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.”

Studies have shown that the virus spreads more easily in crowded, poorly ventilated, indoor spaces than it does outside. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb echoed Fauci’s concerns Wednesday in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“Personally, I wouldn’t attend a large gathering right now, especially one indoors. Certainly things held indoors are less safe than things held outdoors,” Gottlieb said. “But all these large gatherings are going to lead to spread. There’s just no question about it.”

Epidemiologists have identified certain activities as particularly risky in terms of spreading the virus. Singing, shouting and chanting are all activities that have been identified as high risk, because they can spread virus-carrying droplets, which might linger in the air for a period of time, especially indoors. 

Representatives from the Trump campaign did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on whether they are considering moving the rally outdoors. 

“The campaign takes the health and safety of rally-goers seriously and is taking precautions to make the rally safe,” Erin Perrine, deputy communications director for the Trump Campaign, said in a statement to CNBC. “Every single rally goer will have their temperature checked, be provided a face mask and hand sanitizer.”

As of Tuesday, the Oklahoma Department of Health had identified 8,645 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. At least 363 people in the state have died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. 

The Tulsa Health Department declined to comment specifically on the rally, but said in a statement to CNBC that “the Tulsa Health Department is concerned about the safety of any large gathering of people in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain.”

The state has seen a recent uptick in new cases, Republican Sen. James Lankford said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that hospitalizations due to Covid-19 have not increased. He said that anyone with underlying conditions or who might be at risk of severe disease if they become infected should not attend the rally.

Lankford added that there are outdoor facilities large enough to host the rally, but it might be too hot to move the rally outdoors. 

Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, has previously called for the rally to be postponed. He told Tulsa World earlier this week that there are “an awful lot” of positive cases now coming out of Tulsa County.

“I want people to be safe, and it hurts my heart to think that there’s a potential that we’re going to have something here where people become exposed to an illness,” Dart told the Tulsa World. “We’ve seen how devastating it’s been across the board in this country, and I don’t want it to happen to anybody here.”

— CNBC’s Michelle Gao contributed to this report.

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