President Trump, after boasting about enthusiasm and promising a full house, spoke in an arena in Tulsa on Saturday night with many seats unfilled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Most of his supporters in the 19,000-seat BOK Center were not wearing masks, hours after his campaign had announced that six members of the advance team staffing the event had tested positive for the virus.

In a speech lasting nearly two hours — filled with grievances, falsehoods and misleading claims — Trump said that because more testing means higher numbers of known coronavirus cases, his direction was to curtail it. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down,’” he said. A White House official said later the president was “obviously kidding,” but he has previously expressed skepticism about testing, which public health experts say is required to contain the outbreak.

  • Trump also downplayed the severity of the virus, fixating on the number of names used for it — and offering one, “Kung Flu,” a racially offensive term.
  • There was no massive overflow audience greeting Trump; the area outside the arena had emptied out by early evening, and plans for Trump to address the audience outside were quickly scrapped. The campaign blamed protesters, but there were only scattered efforts to block entrances, which were resolved by police.
  • The campaign said quarantine procedures had gone into effect for the infected staff members and those in “immediate contact” with them. Meanwhile, Tulsa County reported 136 new cases Saturday — marking another high for both single-day and average cases — while the state as a whole reported 331 new infections.
  • At least six people were arrested with charges of obstruction, loitering and other related offenses. Police fired pepper balls during one tense moment before demonstrators fell back to the historically black Greenwood neighborhood, where people danced in an atmosphere more party than protest.