OKLAHOMA CITY – A spike in coronavirus cases in the Tulsa area has been linked to indoor events, health officials said Friday, warning people attending such gatherings to take precautions to protect their health.
The Tulsa Health Department's warning comes a week before President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, which has a listed seating capacity of 19,199.
"I have concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time. It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe. If you are sick or think you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home," said Bruce Dart, director of the department.
The health department in Tulsa County reported 71 new coronavirus cases Friday and at least 1,443 total cases in the area.
Department spokesperson Leanne Stephens told The Associated Press that an undetermined number of the latest cases were linked to two recent indoor gatherings, but declined to name those events.
The department has not had contact with the Trump campaign and the warning is unrelated to the planned rally, Stephens said.
"From where we're sitting any gathering is concerning, we're not singling out any event," Stephens said.
Trump's campaign even underlined the potential threat to the health of those planning to attend the rally.
"By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present," Trump's campaign advised those signing up for the rally. "By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc." liable for illness or injury.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Friday reported more than 200 new cases statewide to bring the state total to at least 7,848.
NURSING HOME VISITATION
People may resume visiting patients at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Oklahoma starting next week, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday.
Visitors must make appointments, wear masks and follow social-distancing rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Stitt said in a statement. Facilities must screen visitors for COVID-19 symptoms, including by taking temperatures.
Oklahoma schools are eligible to apply for federal funds to respond to the coronavirus. Stitt and state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Friday that $16 million is available, with grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, based on enrollment as of Oct. 1, 2019.
Schools can use the funds to expand access to distance learning and provide mental health support for students experiencing trauma due to the virus.
Oklahoma received about $1.5 billion in federal funding to support COVID-19-related expenses.
The state Board of Education in March closed public schools for the remainder of the school year. Plans for reopening schools this fall were released this month.
Oklahoma has more than 200 new cases of the virus and two more deaths, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Friday.
The department said the state has reported at least 7,848 cases of the virus and 359 deaths, up from 7,626 cases of the virus and 357 deaths Thursday.
The actual number of infections is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.
The Health Department reported 6,391 people in the state have recovered from the virus and 154 are hospitalized.