Hundreds of Oklahoma nurses and doctors urge mayor to cancel Trumps Tulsa rally – Business Insider
Hundreds of Oklahoma healthcare professionals have signed a letter urging the mayor of Tulsa to cancel President Donald Trump’s massive indoor campaign rally on Saturday.
“Allowing our city to be one of the first places in the world to host an indoor gathering of this magnitude is not a political matter, it is a public health matter,” the letter reads. “It is unthinkable that this is seen as a logical choice.”
The letter’s author, Dr. Jabraan Pasha, told Business Insider that the indoor rally is “unbelievably reckless” and insisted it will be a superspreader event.
Monica Saenz, an intensive care doctor at Tulsa’s St. John Medical Center, wrote in a comment that “we simply don’t have the capacity to handle the number of people who will be infected because of this weekend’s activities.”
Hundreds of Oklahoma healthcare professionals have signed a letter urging the mayor of Tulsa to cancel President Donald Trump’s massive indoor campaign rally on Saturday over concerns that the gathering of tens of thousands will provoke a surge in coronavirus infections.
Dr. Jabraan Pasha, an internal medicine doctor at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Tulsa, authored the letter and passed it around to colleagues as Oklahoma’s Covid-19 infections have spiked in the wake of the state’s reopening.
“Allowing our city to be one of the first places in the world to host an indoor gathering of this magnitude is not a political matter, it is a public health matter,” the letter reads. “As our city and state COVID-19 numbers climb at a rate previously unseen, it is unthinkable that this is seen as a logical choice.”
Monica Saenz, an intensive care doctor at Tulsa’s St. John Medical Center, wrote in a comment that she has “personally seen now close to 50 patients die a horrible death from Covid-19.”
“We simply don’t have the capacity to handle the number of people who will be infected because of this weekend’s activities,” Saenz added. “Please make the right decision. Say NO to Trump’s rally.”
Melanie Phillips, an emergency medicine physician, noted, “We will be overwhelmed. It will be disastrous.”
The director of Tulsa’s Health Department, Dr. Bruce Dart, said this week that he’s “very, very concerned” about the impact of the rally and has repeatedly urged the state’s political leaders to cancel or postpone the event.
“It hurts my heart to think about the aftermath of what’s going to happen,” Dart told a meeting of the Tulsa Public Schools board on Monday, according to Tulsa public radio.
Judging by the response to the letter, the state’s medical community is overwhelmingly in favor of prohibiting any large indoor gatherings.
“There does not seem to be any division within our healthcare community here that this is just a bad idea, no matter what political side you’re on,” Pasha told Business Insider in a Wednesday interview, adding that holding the rally is “unbelievably reckless.”
Pasha released the letter at noon on Sunday and by 8 pm it had over 500 signatures. By Wednesday, the letter had been signed by 790 doctors, nurses, scientists, and other medical workers.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, a Republican, hasn’t responded to the letter, even though Pasha and others have sent it to his office — even texting it to his personal phone — multiple times.
A spokesperson for the mayor didn’t respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
During a Wednesday press conference, Bynum called it a “tremendous honor” that Trump had chosen to hold his first rally since early March in Tulsa. He added he was “very grateful” to the president and would “welcome” Trump to the city.
But Bynum wrote in a Tuesday Facebook post that, while he’s “anxious” about the rally, he won’t “attempt to block the state government or the President of the United States by invoking the local civil emergency authority in our city ordinance.”
“We are navigating a balance between freedom and safety that is new for every city around the world,” he said in the statement.
“Was the nation’s first large campaign rally after the arrival of COVID-19 my idea? No,” Bynum said in the statement. “I didn’t even know the invitation had been extended until BOK Center management contacted the City regarding Police support for the event. Do I share anxiety about having a full house at the BOK Center? Of course.”
The mayor said every rally attendee will be required to undergo a temperature check before they’re admitted into the venue and all attendees will be provided with masks. The venue will also feature hand sanitizer stations.
Pasha said he’s somewhat surprised the mayor hasn’t been more sensitive to the medical community’s concerns, in part because Bynum has been “really outspoken as a Republican mayor” in his pandemic response.
Fanning the flames of both Covid-19 and historic racial divisions
The campaign is preparing for tens of thousands to gather in the 19,000-seat indoor arena at the Bank of Oklahoma Center, and tens of thousands more anti-Trump and Black Lives Matter protesters are expected to descend on the city. Trump claimed in a tweet that nearly one million people have requested to attend the event.
There are no reported plans to facilitate or enforce social distancing and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said this week that face masks will be “optional” at the rally. She and other GOP officials have insisted that Americans can make their own decisions about what they consider to be safe.
Notably, the Trump campaign is having anyone who attends a rally sign a waiver agreeing that they won’t sue the campaign if they’re infected with coronavirus at the event.
Tulsa’s coronavirus cases are on the rise, after remaining relatively controlled for the last few months. The four-day average of new infections has more than doubled since the peak of the city’s crisis in April, and the percentage of positive tests is on the rise — evidence that the virus is spiking.
Tulsa officials announced on Wednesday that the city saw a record number of new cases in the previous 24 hours.
Pasha said the increase in Covid-19 infections in Tulsa is a result of the state’s reopening. He added that, from his own observations, city residents haven’t been diligent in social distancing.
“Our community hasn’t been particularly good at wearing masks or social distancing,” he said. “You go to the grocery store and most people aren’t wearing masks.”
The BOK had canceled or postponed all events due to take place in the Center through the end of July. But an exception has been made for Trump’s rally.
Trump’s rally has also inflamed racial tensions in Tulsa, home to the deadliest massacre of Black Americans in US history during the 1921 Tulsa massacre.
The campaign was pressured to push the rally back by a day following controversy over its decision to hold the event on Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating the end of slavery.
A group of Tulsa residents and business owners who represent the city’s historic Black Wall Street have also attempted to block the rally from happening by suing the company that manages the venue. A Tulsa judge denied the temporary injunction on Tuesday.