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Two weeks ago today, Oklahoma reported a strikingly low 56 new coronavirus cases. It was the calm before the storm. The number has been rising steadily since, and exploded earlier this week, culminating in a reported 450 new cases on Thursday — about three times as high as the previous spike the state saw, in early April. If I thought God was in control of the virus, I’d say He might be warning Donald Trump and his followers to stay away from the Sooner State.

Fat chance, obviously. It’s officially all systems go. Yesterday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s monster rally in Tulsa can go ahead, pandemic or no pandemic. And in the afternoon, more “good” news: The president tweeted triumphantly that the “highly respected” mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum, had just informed him that

“… there will be no curfew tonight or tomorrow for our many supporters attending the #MAGA Rally. Enjoy yourselves – thank you to Mayor Bynum!”

But out of prudence and care for their fellow citizens, at least everyone will be social-distancing and wearing face ma–

Nah. Of course they won’t.

[R]allygoers will be issued hand sanitizer and masks, but nothing is mandatory. Given that Trump is still shaking hands and refusing to mask up, even health-conscious attendees are likely to pack themselves in and go mask-free, if only as a sign of respect for their devil-may-care hero.

Virginia Heffernan, writing at the Los Angeles Times, is perplexed.

The weather in Tulsa is expected to be muggy and nearly 90 degrees, with a high chance of thunder and lightning. … “Bad idea” doesn’t begin to capture how reckless and vicious it is to pack an arena on a steamy night with thousands of rambunctious hotheads in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak. The disease, which has killed some 120,000 Americans so far, rips through populations fastest when people are crowded indoors and shouting for extended periods.

To mass-gather like that is not just irrational, it’s anti-rational.

Her conclusion:

This rally is really shaping up to be a teeming petri dish inside a wrecking ball inside a juggernaut.

The BOK Center, where the event is taking place, has a capacity of 19,000, and team Trump claims that interest is so high that some people will have to be directed to an “overflow venue.” According to CNN,

… the campaign says that more than one million people have RSVPd for the event.

That doesn’t mean that there will be that many attendees. Some people are signing up just to troll Trump’s campaign. But there will undoubtedly be a very large crowd.

Heffernan is correct, I think, that the vast majority of participants won’t wear a face mask. The president made sure of that by telling the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that

… some Americans might wear face masks not as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus but as a way to “signal disapproval of him.”

That the rally has the potential to become the mother of all superspreader events, possibly bigger than all U.S. church infections combined, seems blindingly obvious. But I guess cult-like religious fervor, even if it’s directed at a mere mortal, has a way of short-circuiting common sense.

There’s nothing anyone can do now but wait for Oklahoma’s new COVID-19 numbers to come in, 10 to 12 days from today. I’m certainly concerned that the virus will ultimately jump to people who had nothing to do with the rally, or who had little or no choice in being there — Secret Service agents, security personnel, arena workers, news crews, et cetera.

The willing eager participants, that’s different. By all means should they stand shoulder to shoulder and, maskless, roar their approval of the Dear Leader, spraying viral droplets everywhere. They’ll be engaging in the equivalent of a massive snake-handling contest — a fascinating and grisly experiment that’s hard to look away from.

I’m happy to say I’ll be following it all from the confines of my home, a safe 1,700 miles from today’s epic fucknuttery.

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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