KEY POINTS

  • The Tulsa Health Department reported over 700 new cases between Monday and Wednesday, the highest surge of cases the county has seen since the pandemic began
  • City and county officials credited the recent surge to President Trump's rally on June 20, along with seven other large gatherings including weddings and religious events
  • The Trump campaign pushed back against the Tulsa Health Department and instead pointed to the Black Lives Matter protests and counter-protests in the city around the rally

Oklahoma health officials report a surge in coronavirus cases in Tulsa, with more than 700 new cases confirmed this week and predictive models showing more cases on the way. The recent surge comes little more than two weeks after President Donald Trump’s June 20 rally, which officials said was among the likely sources of exposure.

Tulsa County health officials reported 261 new confirmed cases on Monday, 206 on Tuesday and 266 Wednesday.

“The past two days we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right,” Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart told a press conference before Wednesday's numbers came in. “So I guess we just connect the dots.”

Tulsa County has recorded 4,571 confirmed cases, with a 24.2% increase from last week as of 8 a.m. Thursday, with 72 deaths.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said the rally was one of seven large-scale events, including weddings and religious gatherings, held in Tulsa County that likely contributed to the recent surge of cases.

Dart was one of several local health officials who pleaded with rally attendees to wear face masks while inside the BOK Center,. However, most attendees inside the arena ignored the advice.

Tulsa Health Department Communications Director Leanne Stephens said contact tracers have been trying to track sources of potential exposure, but have been “inundated” due to the recent surge of cases.

“Our epidemiologists and contact tracers are inundated with following up with Tulsa County residents who are confirmed positive as the numbers have been extremely high in recent days,” Stephens told CNN. “Yesterday [Tuesday], we set a new single-day case high and you can see on our website where the trends are moving.”

The Trump campaign pushed back against linking the surge to his rally, and instead tried to shift the blame on recent Black Lives Matter protests.

“There were literally no health precautions to speak of as thousands looted, rioted and protested in the streets, and the media reported that it did not lead to a rise in coronavirus cases,” Trump campaign communication director Tim Murtaugh told CNN. “Meanwhile, the president's rally was 18 days ago, all attendees had their temperature checked, everyone was provided a mask, and there was plenty of hand sanitizer available for all. It's obvious that the media's concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies.”

Despite Murtaugh’s claims, a study published June 24 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found no evidence most Black Lives Matter protests last month led to spikes in coronavirus cases.

“Our findings suggest that any direct decrease in social distancing among the subset of the population participating in the protests is more than offset by increasing social distancing behavior among others who may choose to shelter-at-home and circumvent public places while the protests are underway,” the report said.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump listen to him speak at his Tulsa campaign rally Supporters of US President Donald Trump listen to him speak at his Tulsa campaign rally Photo: AFP / Nicholas Kamm