Trump rally attendees will have fewer safety measures than high-dollar donors

Those attending fundraisers with the president had to have a coronavirus test and fill out a health questionnaire ahead of time.
Image: President Donald Trump waves to supporters during a "Keep America Great" campaign rally in Sunrise
President Donald Trump waves to supporters during a "Keep America Great" campaign rally in Sunrise, Fla., on Nov. 26, 2019.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Monica Alba

WASHINGTON — Top Republicans donors at President Donald Trump's two recent fundraisers had to have tested negative for the coronavirus, fill out a wellness questionnaire and pass a temperature check to be near him, but thousands of supporters who attend his upcoming rally will not be screened as thoroughly.

After declining to explain for days which safety measures, if any, will be enforced by the Trump campaign at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, event this weekend, senior officials Monday said hand sanitizer and face masks will be offered to all attendees, though not necessarily required. Rallygoers will also have their temperatures taken before entering an arena that fits more than 19,000 people.

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At high-dollar dinners in Dallas and Bedminster, New Jersey, several dozen GOP financial backers had the costs of their COVID-19 tests covered by the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee.

There is no plan to test any of the supporters who attend the mega-rally in Oklahoma, where cases have spiked in recent days and the sweltering heat may complicate temperature readings. The campaign did not say what would happen if someone registered a higher-than-usual fever or what the cutoff would be for entry.

There is no indication there will be any social distancing inside the venue and people will likely be packed shoulder to shoulder, which is a concept the president has endorsed, saying it “loses a lot of flavor” to have his devoted fans spread out.

Anyone who enters the BOK Center will have already signed a digital liability waiver, clearing the Trump campaign of any responsibility should they get sick at the mass gathering.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine tells NBC News that "the campaign takes the health and safety of rally-goers seriously and is taking precautions to make the rally safe. Every single rally goer will have their temperature checked, be provided a face mask and hand sanitizer. We are also taking precautions to keep rally-goers safe in the Oklahoma heat — including providing water bottles to keep people hydrated."

Top local officials like Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart said he wishes the campaign would postpone the rally to a future, safer date. He implied the risk wasn’t just high for the participants, but also for the president himself.

“I think it’s an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic,” Dart told the Tulsa World over the weekend. “I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe, as well.”

The editorial board of the same paper wrote Monday that “We don’t know why he chose Tulsa, but we can’t see any way that his visit will be good for the city.”

The health concerns come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently classified large, indoor gatherings where social distancing is not possible as falling into the “highest risk” category. The CDC also said the danger is greater when “attendees travel outside the local area.”

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted that so many people, from both within the state and from outside the state, expressed interest in participating that the Trump 2020 team is considering adding a second event.

The Saturday event will be the first of this kind since the coronavirus pandemic began. The president’s last 2020 rally with thousands of supporters took place in North Carolina in early March.

Soon after, the Trump campaign and the RNC transitioned to a fully virtual operation and ceased all in-person gatherings and fundraising.

For weeks, Trump has been asking his advisers why he couldn’t hold large-scale events when thousands were gathering in the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

After itching to get back on the trail, the president unexpectedly announced the Tulsa rally would take place June 19, or Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

That was met with fierce criticism and a swift backlash, prompting the campaign to push the date back to the following day.

The campaign claims as many as 1 million people registered to attend the event, but far fewer are expected to actually travel to Tulsa, where counterprotesters have already signaled they will organize a competing rally.