WASHINGTON – The thousands of people expected to attend next Saturday’s political rally for President Donald Trump in Oklahoma “probably” ought to wear a face mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday.
The Trump campaign, however, has not said whether it plans to enforce guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control calling for face coverings at large gatherings such as the Trump rally in Tulsa. As many as 19,000 people could crowd into the city’s BOK Center to take part in the president’s first large-scale rally in three months.
Kudlow told CNN that as U.S. workers return to their jobs after being laid off because of the spread of the coronavirus, they should continue to observe social distancing guidelines calling for people to stay two meters away from others and to wear face masks.
Asked whether his suggestion for workers to wear a face mask also applied to people at the Trump rally, Kudlow said, “Well, OK. Probably so.”
Asked how the rally can be held safely, one of the president’s biggest supporters, Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford told ABC’s “This Week” show, “I don’t know how they’re going to handle that.” But he said he plans to go.
Trump has repeatedly ignored suggestions that he wear a face mask in public to set an example for Americans to prevent the spread of the pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people and killed more than 115,000 in the U.S., both figures by far the most in any nation around the world.
Asked about wearing a face mask, Trump at one point said, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
But liability for the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is worrying the Trump campaign.
It claims that 200,000 to 300,000 people have requested tickets for the Tulsa rally in one of the biggest Trump-supportive states in the country.
But anyone requesting a ticket must agree to a disclaimer saying they acknowledge the “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present” and agrees to relinquish any right to sue the Trump campaign or the arena if they subsequently contract the virus.
Trump, believing large-scale rallies are a crucial political lifeline leading up to his November national re-election contest against former Vice President Joe Biden, has made it clear he does not want to speak to a two-thirds-empty arena to accommodate social distancing or a sea of faces wearing face masks.
Trump campaign chairman Brad Parscale said last week, “Americans are ready to get back to action and so is President Trump. The Great American Comeback is real and the rallies will be tremendous.”
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, voiced deep concerns last week about the crowd expected to hear Trump, saying that the pandemic is far from over.
“Oh my goodness,” Fauci said. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of really understanding.”
Some Americans have equated wearing a face mask as a sign of weakness, but U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday on Twitter, “Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice — but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.”
He said that with face coverings, there would be “less asymptomatic viral spread, more places open, and sooner! Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a face covering!”
According to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, the Trump rally would fall into the “highest risk” category, defined as “large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet (two meters) apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.”
The CDC guidance also says that “cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged in settings where individuals might raise their voice (e.g., shouting, chanting, singing)” — all of which is typical of a political rally.