WASHINGTON – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt told President Donald Trump on Thursday that his state is ready to host a pivotal campaign rally Saturday, dismissing warnings from health officials about hosting a large gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re so excited to have you,” Stitt, a Republican, told the president during a White House event focused on reopening the economy. “Oklahoma’s ready for your visit.”
Some state officials, including Republicans, have warned against bringing thousands of people into an indoor venue, the BOK Center, during the pandemic. Oklahoma is experiencing record spikes in daily coronavirus cases, though Stitt said hospitalizations remain low.
The rally will mark the president’s first return to the campaign trail since the early weeks of the pandemic and comes at a time when his support is slipping in battleground states. Trump supporters began lining up for the event days ago.
The BOK Center holds an estimated 19,000 people.
The Oklahoma health commissioner said this week that rally attendees will face an “increased” coronavirus risk, and local health officials have called for the rally to be canceled or moved to a different venue.
G.T. Bynum, Tulsa’s Republican mayor, isn’t planning to attend the rally. “I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already,” he wrote on Facebook this week.
Trump’s campaign is bringing in musical acts and high-profile surrogates to showcase the president’s support, Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said. The campaign says over a million people have signed up online to attend the event.
Contributing: The Oklahoman, Associated Press