Two staffers on President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign who were at the president’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday tested positive for COVID-19, the campaign announced on Monday.
This brings the total number of Trump advance team staffers infected with coronavirus who were involved with the rally to at least eight, including two Secret Service agents. Six of these staffers helped set up the rally but the Trump campaign said they did not attend after it was discovered they were infected, and quarantine measures were immediately initiated.
The additional two staffers were found to have the virus after the Tulsa rally when they were tested as a precaution for flying home, Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, told Monica Alba of NBC News.
“After another round of testing for campaign staff in Tulsa, two additional members of the advance team tested positive for the coronavirus. These staff members attended the rally but were wearing masks during the entire event,” Murtaugh told NBC News.
Top public health experts raised concerns about Trump holding a rally amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to roughly 120,000 reported deaths in the US thus far. The general worry was that the rally could become a superspreader event for the virus.
White House coronavirus advisers Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci were among those who expressed consternation over the rally, according to NBC News, but Trump still went ahead with it. The president has repeatedly dismissed guidance from his own experts, including a recommendation for people to wear masks or face-coverings when in public.
Local officials were also worried that the event could contribute to the spread of the virus, with cases on the rise in recent days. “I’m not positive that everything is safe,” Mayor GT Bynum, a Republican, said last Wednesday when discussing Trump’s rally.
Coronavirus case data tends to lag roughly two weeks behind new infections, given the nature of the virus, so it’s too soon to know whether Trump’s rally contributed to a surge in cases. But Oklahoma officials on Monday reported 478 new coronavirus cases, a record high for the state.
Though the Trump campaign expected a massive turnout at the Tulsa rally, only about 6,200 people attended the event at the Bank of Oklahoma Center, an arena that can hold a little over 19,000. The president was reportedly shocked and enraged over the low turnout.
The rally in Tulsa was Trump’s first such campaign event since the coronavirus pandemic began in March. Trump’s next campaign event is set to occur in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday.