At rally, Trump blames media and protesters for empty seats, says he ordered slower coronavirus testing

TULSA, Okla. – President Donald Trump promoted his rally here on Saturday as an opportunity to reignite his reelection campaign and move past the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 120,000 Americans and devastated the economy. He claimed that nearly 1 million people had requested tickets and boasted, “We’ve never had an empty seat, and we certainly won’t in Oklahoma.”

Instead, he addressed his supporters, most of them unmasked, in a 19,000-seat arena with many spots unfilled, hours after his campaign had announced that six members of the advance team staffing the event had tested positive for the virus.

He used his platform to belittle testing, which public health experts say is required to contain the outbreak. Because the strategy reveals what the president characterized as trivial cases, his direction was to curtail it. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down,’ ” he said, as the audience cheered.

There was no massive overflow audience; the area outside the arena had emptied out by early evening, and plans for Trump to address the audience outside were quickly scrapped. The campaign blamed protesters; there were only scattered efforts to block entrances, which were resolved by police.

The campaign said quarantine procedures had gone into effect for the infected staff members and those in “immediate contact” with them. Meanwhile, Tulsa County reported 136 new cases Saturday – marking another high for both single-day and average cases – while the state as a whole reported 331 new infections.

Upon entering the rally grounds, attendees were handed blue face coverings – which many chose not to wear – and directed through a maze of metal fencing, which led to a touchless temperature screening conducted by volunteers in purple smocks. Most police officers and National Guard soldiers on the rally grounds also chose not to wear face coverings.

Outside the security perimeter, arguments erupted between protesters and the president’s supporters at street corners near the arena, where they traded cries of “Black lives matter” and “all lives matter.” One protester was arrested at the BOK Center, a private venue leased by the Trump campaign.

Source: Stamford Advocate