(CNN)On Monday morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to brag about his planned return to the campaign trial on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Almost One Million people request tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma!,” he tweeted.(Not for nothing, less than 4 million people live in the entire state of Oklahoma. Just over 400,000 live in the city of Tulsa.)Trump’s hyping of the Tulsa rally runs directly counter to what Oklahoma’s health experts are saying about it.”COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently,” said Dr. Bruce Dart, the head of Tulsa’s health department, over the weekend. “I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”Read MoreIn an editorial posted Monday morning, the editorial board of the Tulsa World newspaper wrote: “Tulsa is still dealing with the challenges created by a pandemic. The city and state have authorized reopening, but that doesn’t make a mass indoor gathering of people pressed closely together and cheering a good idea. There is no treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine. It will be our health care system that will have to deal with whatever effects follow.”The public health concern would apply whether it were Donald Trump, Joe Biden or anyone else who was planning a mass rally at the BOK.”This is the wrong time.”(Note: The BOK is the Bank of Oklahoma Center, which is where the Trump rally is being held. It holds just more than 19,000 people.)And Trump’s rally appears to directly violate his own administration’s guidance on large gatherings amid the (still) ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to the CDC, the “highest risk” of Covid-19 transmission is posed by “large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.”Which, is, well, exactly what you will have on Saturday in Tulsa.In a not-at-all-subtle acknowledgment of the risk that attendees will have to take, the Trump campaign is requiring a waiver be signed that frees them of any legal liability if someone catches coronavirus at the event. While Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said late last week that “there will be safety precautions,” it’s not clear whether face masks will be required — although it seems unlikely given that Trump himself has resisted wearing a mask in public. (Trump economic guru Larry Kudlow told CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend that attendees “probably” should wear masks.)Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted on Monday that every person who enters the arena on Saturday will get their temperature checked, will get hand sanitizer and will be provided a mask from the campaign.Even though the masks will be provided, Murtaugh told CNN they will not be required to be worn. When asked if there will be any social distancing practiced at the event, Murtaugh said, “This is a Trump rally, the arena will be packed.”Trump, ever aware of criticism, sought to push back on the idea he shouldn’t hold the rally this weekend. “The Far Left Fake News Media, which had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters destroying Democrat run cities, is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies,” he tweeted Monday. “Won’t work!”
THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE!
In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe!
That’s not an entirely fair comparison. The biggest difference between Trump’s planned rally and the protests around the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd is that the former is inside while the latter are outside. There’s a broad consensus among infectious disease experts that being outside is safer than being inside when dealing with the transmissibility of the coronavirus. Now, that’s not to say that people gathering in big groups outside — like those protesting Floyd’s death around the country — aren’t taking on a greater risk of getting the virus than if they simply stayed home. They are. What it is to say is that being outside with more people is safer than being inside with them — where you are all breathing the same air (and any virus that is being carried by that air).Take a step back. There’s simply no reason — beyond his own desire to hear crowds chanting his name again — for Trump to return to the campaign trail this week. Not with 18 states reporting increases in the number of cases, including Oklahoma.Will any of this force Trump to reconsider the rally in the interest of public health? Almost certainly not.