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Gov. Stitt Q&A on Trump rally in Tulsa: A venue change? A tour of Greenwood? The danger of COVID?
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Gov. Stitt Q&A on Trump rally in Tulsa: A venue change? A tour of Greenwood? The danger of COVID?

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday said he has asked President Donald Trump to tour the Greenwood District during his visit to Tulsa on Saturday. The governor said it will be an effort to secure federal dollars for a museum dedicated to the area’s history, including the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Stitt also addressed several questions regarding the president’s visit, including a possible venue change, COVID-19 and what precautions to take in large gatherings.

Trump is expected to visit Tulsa on Saturday, after moving the rally back a day. Originally, it had been scheduled for Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the emancipation of black slaves.

Also on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he would be joining Trump at the rally.

Stitt said officials are looking for an alternative location because so many have requested tickets. According to a tweet by the president, ticket requests are approaching 1 million. The event is currently scheduled for the BOK Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, with doors opening at 3 p.m.

On Monday, Trump told a pool reporter, “we have hot spots as I said you might ... we’ll take care of the hot spots.”

He also said one of the reasons he chose Tulsa was because of Stitt’s work on COVID-19.

Pence said, “they flattened the curve” in the state.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, the president said the convention hall, the Cox Business Convention Center, near the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa will also be used, increasing total capacity to 62,000 for his first campaign rally since early March.

That would mean there would be “over 900,000 people that won’t be able to go, but hopefully they’ll be watching,” Trump said.

“But it’s amazing. No one’s ever heard of numbers like this. We’re going to have a great time. We’re going to talk about our nation. We’re going to talk about where we’re going, where we’ve come from.”

Following a Board of Equalization Board meeting, Stitt fielded questions about Trump’s visit.

Are you at all concerned about Trump coming and a lot of people, crowded, safety concerns, what are your thoughts on that?

Stitt: We are really excited the president is coming. I talked to the vice president on Saturday and actually the president called me today and there are over 1 million requests for his visit, so we are excited that we are being recognized as one of the first states to safely and measurably reopen.

I am looking for a potentially other venue. Maybe we could move it outside. That is still kind of in the works. It is currently at the BOK Center, so we are trying to take every safety precaution possible to make it a safe event.

That is the thing about our society. We are a free society. You are free to come to that event. If you are immune compromised in any way, we suggest you wouldn’t come. You are free to come. You are free to stay home. But we have to learn how to deal with this.

Right now, Oklahoma is in a great position. We have 150 people (with COVID-19) in the hospital across the state of Oklahoma. So, we need to continue to be vigilant and continue to take precautions, but we also have to learn how to deal with COVID.

It is in the United States. It is in Oklahoma. And we can’t let it dictate our lives. We have to go about our lives, but we are going to do it with every precaution possible.

Are you worried about having 1 million people in one spot?

Stitt: Well, I think the president would love to have 1 million people here, but unfortunately we do not have a venue big enough for that in Oklahoma. But it just shows the excitement about him coming to Oklahoma, and we support the president. But sure, we will obviously take every precaution possible to make sure it is a safe event. That is why we are looking for some potential other things.

I was really pleased we moved it to June 20. That was a request we made. So we are really excited to move that to June 20.

You have told people over and over and over, no large crowds. This sort of goes against that. Can you reconcile that?

Stitt: During the beginning when we were really trying to understand this and build PPE (personal protective equipment) and build hospital capacity, we of course wanted to slow down those large crowds. We were following the CDC guidelines.

As of June 1, we are opening back up our economy and loosening some of those guidelines. So, the president coming, we are excited about him being here. We are looking forward to being great hosts.

What about the spikes they are seeing in Tulsa right now?

Stitt: Again, I go back to how many people are in the hospital (with COVID-19) in the state of Oklahoma and it is 150. You are naturally going to see increases in numbers of positive cases because we tested last week 5,000 in one day. We tested close to 300,000 people in Oklahoma at this point so we are going to see those go up. Close to 7,000 positive cases.

But the thing we have to remember as Oklahomans is there are less than 1,000 active cases right now. So again, we are going to be cautious. I am going to be very transparent with the data we show Oklahomans.

We are just testing more asymptomatic people, so we will see more positive cases in the state as we ramp up testing.

But again, we have to watch those hospital capacities. We have to watch that, but we are in really, really good shape from a health care perspective in the state of Oklahoma.

Stitt: I will be at the rally. I will be introducing the president.

Did the president indicate why he chose Oklahoma?

Stitt: The vice president kind of alluded to it more than the president did. They just wanted to showcase Oklahoma as a state that handled COVID correctly, did it the right way.

I am going to be going to the White House on Thursday. I am going to take a small-business, minority business owner with me to the White House with a couple other governors. We are going to have kind of a roundtable with the president and talk about those businesses that were able to continue to operate even during the COVID crisis, so I am looking forward to that on Thursday.

Again, it is just the first of 100 different events he is going to hold. Oklahoma was one of the first states to safely and measurably reopen. I think that is one of the reasons he chose our state.

Do you recommend that people wear masks to this rally?

Stitt: I don’t know what the president’s recommendations are. If people want to wear masks — absolutely. They need to wear masks and come to it. I have been very cautious about mandating masks in public.

If you can maintain social distancing then we are not going to mandate it. But, of course, you are welcome to wear a mask if you feel more comfortable getting out around people — then 100% you need to wear a mask.

A mandate is different than a suggestion?

Stitt: Am I suggesting masks? Sure, if that makes you feel more comfortable. I would think it would be great.

Did you say you had made a request of the Trump campaign to move that date from (June) 19 to the 20?

Stitt: Correct. Yes. We felt like because of the Juneteenth celebration in the African American community and for unity and reconciliation in our state, it would be better to move that off of that date.

We were so thrilled the administration listened not only to us, but I am sure other advisers were telling them the same thing. Now, June 20 is great.

I have personally asked the vice president and the president if they would come with me to the Greenwood District to kind of take a look at that.

Last year, we appropriated $1.5 million for the museum to commemorate the race riots because our 100-year anniversary is going to be next year.

I told the president on the phone this morning. I said would you please come with me to tour that and maybe put some federal dollars to help build that museum. It is the 9/11 architects that did the 9/11 museum in New York who are actually designing that memorial here in Tulsa.

Being from Tulsa, that is very important to Tulsans. It is very important to Oklahomans and really reconciliation in our state.

Related

Vice President Pence says he will join Trump at Saturday’s Tulsa rally

Did Oklahoma City mayor reject Trump rally in that city?

Tulsa Health Department director ‘wishes’ Trump rally would be postponed as local COVID cases surge

Tulsa World editorial: This is the wrong time and Tulsa is the wrong place for the Trump rally

Bruce Plante cartoon: President Trump rally in Tulsa


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Gallery: Tulsa Race Massacre: This is what happened in Tulsa in 1921

Barbara Hoberock

405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @bhoberock

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