Two Trump campaign staff members who attended the president’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokesman said Monday, despite earlier assurances that a small outbreak among campaign workers had been contained and no staffers who had tested positive had entered the arena.
The two workers, members of the campaign’s advance team, tested positive when “another round of testing” was conducted after the rally, according to Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director. He said the staff members in question had attended the event, but had worn masks the entire time.
“Upon the positive tests, the campaign immediately activated established quarantine and contact-tracing protocols,” Murtaugh said.
It was not immediately clear how many people the staff members interacted with inside the arena, or whether either of them had been in contact with U.S. President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, who was also at the rally.
Six other members of the campaign’s advance team had tested positive for coronavirus before the rally, an alarming development that the campaign tried to downplay by saying that their tests were a small fraction of the “hundreds of tests performed” on staff members.
The Trump campaign forged ahead with the rally despite recommendations from local health officials to delay any mass indoor gathering until it was safer to bring large groups of people together.
Despite an increase in coronavirus cases in Tulsa, the campaign had hoped to fill the 19,000-seat stadium to the brim. In the end about 6,200 people showed up, according to the city’s Fire Department.
Inside the arena, many of those who did attend conspicuously discarded the masks that were handed out as they entered, and proceeded to spend hours inside the arena without any face coverings.
The desire to push ahead with the rally, regardless of health concerns, reflected Trump’s continued emphasis on returning to normal, and his desire to campaign on a message that the country and the stock market were going to rebound. On Monday, the White House also began easing up on restrictions, scaling back temperature checks for people entering the grounds, and reopening some cafeterias to staff.