Masks will be 'optional' at Trump's first official rally during the coronavirus pandemic

JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty ImagesUS President Donald Trump speaks during a Keep America Great Rally at Kellogg Arena December 18, 2019, in Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • President Donald Trump will hold his first rally since the coronavirus pandemic hit the US, but face coverings will be “optional” at the massive indoor gathering on June 20.
  • The campaign is preparing for about 19,000 supporters to gather in the indoor arena at the Bank of Oklahoma Centre.
  • There are reportedly no plans to facilitate or enforce social distancing.
  • The GOP’s guidance on face coverings flies in the face of the federal government’s own recommendations.
  • The Trump campaign is having anyone who attends a rally sign a waiver agreeing that they won’t sue the campaign if they’re infected with coronavirus at the event.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump will hold his first rally since the coronavirus pandemic hit the US, but Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel says face coverings will be “optional” at the massive indoor gathering on June 20.

“Masks will be optional and people will be able to wear them if they bring them or want them,” McDaniel told Fox News in a Monday morning interview. “The American people can make decisions for themselves, we’re all pretty informed about Covid at this point.”

The campaign is preparing for about 19,000 supporters to gather in the indoor arena at the Bank of Oklahoma Centre, and there are reportedly no plans to facilitate or enforce social distancing. McDaniel said that she expects thousands more to gather outside of the event and in overflow in the city’s convention centre.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN on Sunday that the rally attendees should “probably” wear a face mask during the event. Trump has refused to wear a face mask throughout the pandemic, sending a message to his supporters that such a protection is unnecessary or ineffective.

The guidance coming from the GOP flies in the face of the federal government’s own recommendations regarding masks and social distancing to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert who’s helping lead the federal coronavirus response, has called large gatherings amid the pandemic a “danger” and “risky,” and said Americans should “make sure” to wear a face covering at the events.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all Americans wear a face covering when they cannot maintain at least six feet of distance from others. In new guidance released last Friday, the CDC recommended that organisers of large in-person gatherings that include chanting or singing “strongly encourage” attendees to wear face coverings.

Trump rallies, like the nationwide anti-racism protests, feature chanting and shouting, which exacerbates the spread of the virus.

Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Oklahoma and other states that were quick to relax social distancing policies and reopen businesses.

Trump claimed in a Monday morning tweet that nearly one million people have attempted to register to attend the rally. And in another message he wrote that the media is “is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies,” by reporting on concerns expressed by health officials.

Tulsa’s top public health official and other locals have urged the president to cancel the rally over Covid-19 concerns. The city’s major newspaper, Tulsa World, argued that it’s both “the wrong time” and “the wrong place” for a Trump rally.

“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 editorial board wrote. “The public health concern would apply whether it were Donald Trump, Joe Biden or anyone else who was planning a mass rally at the BOK.”

Notably, the Trump campaign is having anyone who attends a rally sign a waiver agreeing that they won’t sue the campaign if they’re infected with coronavirus at the event.

This comes after the campaign pushed the Oklahoma rally back by a day following controversy over its decision to hold the event on Juneteenth – a holiday celebrating the end of slavery – in Tulsa, which in 1921 was the location of the deadliest massacre of Black Americans in US history.

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