Pence Lauds Oklahoma For ‘Tremendous Progress’ Despite Clear Rise In COVID Cases

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the daily briefing on COVID-19 in the White House briefing room on March 31, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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June 16, 2020 11:20 a.m.
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Vice President Mike Pence applauded Oklahoma on Tuesday for what he called a “tremendous amount of progress” in battling the coronavirus pandemic and slowing the spread of the virus. But there are data points showing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Sooner State, where President Trump is scheduled to hold a rally this weekend. 

“We’re seeing across the board in the country hospitalizations are declining, most importantly, our fatalities are declining, but in the state of Oklahoma we’ve really seen a tremendous amount of progress,” Pence told “Fox & Friends” in an interview on Tuesday that addressed concerns about the risks of spreading the virus at large political gatherings. 

Tulsa was announced last week as the first stop for the Trump campaign to kick off a fresh stream of reelection rallies since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit.

The Trump campaign has battled ongoing criticism about holding large in-person political gatherings with the looming risk of further spreading the virus, especially in states that have recently seen an acceleration in reports of new cases.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the highest single day increase for Oklahoma on Saturday with 225 new cases. That number has stayed relatively steady going into the beginning of the week, with 186 new cases reported on Monday.

Tulsa also witnessed the single highest increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases over the weekend with 89 new cases tallied for the county on Sunday. 

According to a Reuters analysis, new cases in Oklahoma rose 68% in the second week of June, while the rate of positive tests went up to 4%, from 2% the previous week.

It it with this backdrop that the vice president swatted away concerns about the Trump rally coming up on June 20 in Tulsa potentially contributing to the spread of the virus. In fact, he went so far as to single the state out for demonstrating “a tremendous amount of progress,” which he said was “a tribute to the people of Oklahoma” who have put the health of their neighbors first. 

Pence also swung at networks that “like to publish maps, they like to show entire states blocked red as cases are growing” — suggesting that those maps were a kind of hyperbole.

And yet, in spite of these broad claims about diminishing risks across the country, the Trump campaign was wise enough to make an announcement on Friday warning attendees that they would be required to sign a waiver freeing the campaign from any liability should they become infected with the virus during the event.

Correction: This article incorrectly reported that Tulsa is the capital of Oklahoma and its most densely populated city. We regret the error.

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