State epidemiologist expressed concern Trump’s Tulsa rally would ‘directly lead to deaths’

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TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – The state epidemiologist at the time of President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa expressed concern that Trump’s rally would “directly lead to deaths in Oklahoma.”

“How strongly do I speak out?” former state epidemiologist Aaron Wendelboe wrote in the subject line of an email that was obtained by The Hill, a Washington D.C.-based news website.

Wendelboe went on to write in the email, “I am concerned that the mass indoor gathering in Tulsa of 19,000 people will directly lead to deaths in Oklahoma.”

Wendelboe left his state position a little more than two months after Trump held his rally in Tulsa on June 20. He was the second epidemiologist to leave the state position since the pandemic began in March.

Another email obtained by The Hill emphasized a need to “Test as many Tulsa residents as possible prior to the Presidential visit,” and that and that eight days before the rally, Tulsa “reported its highest daily increase of COVID-19 cases to date.”

An email revealed that a statement prepared by state officials for media originally said, “We strongly encourage those who intend to participate in a large gathering to plan ahead by getting tested for COVID-19.” That statement was changed to say, “We continue to strongly encourage those who intend to participate in a large gathering to plan ahead by getting tested for COVID-19.”

Regarding the statement change, staffers wrote, “The thought being there is nothing new here. This has nothing to do with this gathering vs. any other one.”

The Trump campaign announced on the day of the rally that six Trump campaign staffers who helped set up the Tulsa rally tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump’s Tulsa rally ended up drawing around 6,200 people, among them former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who died of COVID-19 on July 30.

While it is not clear how many COVID-19 cases are linked to Trump’s rally, Dr. Bruce Dart with the Tulsa Health Department noted it more than likely contributed to a jump in cases two weeks later.

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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