WASHINGTON — Leading members of the coronavirus task force warned White House officials about the health risks of holding large-scale indoor campaign rallies and advised against such mass gatherings, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx both vocalized concerns internally in the last week about the safety of holding a rally on Saturday with as many as 19,000 people in an enclosed arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
But President Donald Trump and his campaign advisers are proceeding with the event, which is expected to draw tens of thousands inside and outside the venue who will neither be socially distant nor required to wear face coverings. They claim attendees “assume a personal risk” and “that is part of life.”
It has been nearly two months since the last coronavirus task force briefing and four weeks since Birx answered questions about the coronavirus pandemic from the White House briefing room.
Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the group, and his top aides have at times flouted their own administration’s guidance, opting not to wear masks during trips in recent weeks.
While Pence and the president have tried to paint a rosier picture of the virus and project a return to normalcy, some members of the task force are eager to resume appearances from White House grounds and speak directly to the American people, per two people involved in the task force meetings.
There is no current plan to bring back the once-daily press conferences, according to a person close to Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, so he has found other outlets to offer his medical advice.