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Oklahomas epidemiologist warned of death of Trump rally

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OKLAHOMA CITY The former Oklahomas state epidemiologist has warned that President Donald Trumps’ rally in Tulsa in June could result in up to nine deaths and 228 new cases of COVID-19, according to documents released Wednesday.

Documents released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health in response to a request for open cases show former state epidemiologist Aaron Wendelboe warned state health officials and Tulsa of dire consequences if the rally were to take place, although his projection is based on that. attracting around 19,000 Trump supporters and only around 6,200 showed up.

I’m advocating here for clear communication of the risk of holding a mass rally, ”Wendelboe wrote in an email to Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa health department, five days before Trump’s June 20 rally in a Tulsa city center arena. I’m not sure of a case where we would have a public event and say and, by the way, there is a chance that participating in this could result in a minimum of two deaths. “

In another email to two of his former colleagues at the University of Oklahoma, Wendelboe expressed reservations about how strongly he should share his concerns.

As a state epidemiologist, I think I have a responsibility to speak up and warn of the estimated risk, “Wendelboe wrote in another email from June 15. However, this responsibility also rests with the Commissioner of Health and the Secretary of Health, both with whom I have shared my concerns. I am fully aware that Governor (Kevin) Stitt has invited President Trump to the state. “

The existence of the documents was first reported on Wednesday by The Hill.

Wendelboes’ contract expired this summer and he no longer works for the state health department. He declined to comment on his findings on Wednesday.

The Tulsa health department does not publicly identify where potential virus transmissions have taken place, so it is not clear how many people contracted COVID-19 during the Trumps rally. But among those in attendance was former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who was pictured not wearing a mask and sitting next to others who were also not. According to a statement on his Twitter account, Cain tested positive for the disease on June 29, nine days after the rally, and died on July 30.

Dart publicly urged the Trump campaign to cancel or postpone the rally, but neither he nor Mayor GT Bynum had that authority, spokespersons for the two men said on Wednesday. Dart said Trump’s rally and large protests in Tulsa around the event likely contributed “to an increase in the number of cases in the following weeks.

A spokesman for the Republican governor, who also attended the Trump rally without wearing a mask, admitted that members of Stitt’s cabinet were briefed on Wendelboe’s screenings ahead of the rally.

The governor looked at the models of several epidemiologists throughout the pandemic. Each has projected scenarios much harsher than reality, often several times more extreme, “said Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema. The governor takes all modeling contributions seriously when making decisions and recommendations . “

Stitt was the first U.S. governor to publicly admit testing positive for COVID-19, although he said he did not contract it during the Trump rally.

Wendelboes’ estimates, which ranged from two to nine deaths, were based on a projection that 19,000 Trump supporters would race to the Tulsas BOK Center for the rally. The rally ultimately drew a surprisingly small crowd of around 6,200 after the Trumps campaign boasted that more than a million people applied for tickets. Trumps former campaign manager Brad Parscale was replaced less than a month later.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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