WASHINGTON — In a Wednesday television interview, Sen. James Lankford offered some advice for people attending President Donald Trump's upcoming rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma: "if you have comorbidities, if you are older or have other health issues, don't come!"
Asked whether he recommended attendees wear masks because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoma Republican said on MSNBC "I do" but "it's going to be an individual decision." Rally attendees might also find it difficult to keep masks on when talking to each other, he noted.
It is unclear if Lankford himself will wear a mask. He told CNN's "State of the Union" last Sunday "I haven't decided on that (wearing a mask)" at the rally.
Addressing concerns about increases in coronavirus cases in the state, Lankford said, "I am fully aware that a lot of the nation is looking at Oklahoma right now, and saying 'I can't believe that they're holding a political rally,' " but "we're way ahead of a lot of the other areas in the country" in terms of reopening the state's economy.
"We've seen an increase in numbers over the last five days," he said, "but that was expected as we opened retail, reopened restaurants, protests obviously have been around my state too."
Despite the increase in cases, there had not been a corresponding increase in hospitalizations, Lankford said.
"We have reached a peak that is higher than at any other point in the pandemic here in the state," said Dr. Dale Bratzler, University of Oklahoma Medicine's chief enterprise quality officer, according to the Oklahoman. "We are bending the curve — sadly in the wrong direction."
Tulsa County, where Trump's rally will be held, now leads the state in coronavirus tests, and half the new cases in the state originated in Tulsa County, Bratzler continued.
The Oklahoma health commissioner said Tuesday Trump rally attendees faced an "increased" coronavirus risk, and local health officials have called for the rally to be canceled or moved to a different venue.
"As outlined by the CDC, individuals looking to attend Saturday’s event, or any other large-scale gathering, will face an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and becoming a transmitter of this novel virus,” Oklahoma Health Commissioner Lance Frye said Tuesday.
Frye urged attendees to get tested for the coronavirus both before and after the event.
Contributing: Chris Casteel and Randy Ellis, The Oklahoman
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump Tulsa rally: James Lankford urges at-risk people not to come