Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) confirmed on Sunday that he’ll attend President Donald Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in Oklahoma, adding that despite the state’s rising coronavirus cases he has yet to decide if he’ll wear a face mask during the event.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Lankford was asked by anchor Jake Tapper about the Tulsa rally, which will be held this Saturday in an arena that has canceled all other events through July due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 115,000 Americans.
“CDC guidelines say that you shouldn’t go into a packed arena indoors,” Tapper noted. “But if you do, you should wear masks. Are you going to be wearing a mask? Would you encourage other attendees to wear a mask?”
Lankford, meanwhile, replied “I haven’t decided on that” before claiming that his state has been “way ahead of the nation in many ways” regarding the pandemic. While pointing out that the state is now in Phase Three of reopening the economy, he did acknowledge that they’ve seen “an uptick in some of our cases” in recent days.
“You’re not sure if you’re going to wear a mask?” Tapper pressed. “I have a mask right here just for walking the halls. Don’t you think it’s just common sense, you don’t want to spread it, you don’t want to contract it?”
Noting that he’s recently worn a mask at a restaurant and thus assumes he’s “going to have it,” the Republican lawmaker went on to say he’s still “trying to figure out the best way to be able to do this.”
“You see actually very few masks in Oklahoma now,” Lankford said, further adding: “There are still some that use masks. But we encourage people strongly if they’re high-risk individuals, if they’re older individuals, if they have other health issues not to get out even with a mask.”
Earlier in the same program, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow also demurred when asked about the wearing of masks at the rally—the president’s first since stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines went into effect in early March.
Admitting that there has been an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases as states fully reopen, Kudlow—who claimed back in February the virus was “contained”—said it was a “concern” before calling on the public to “observe the safety guidelines” and utilize “face coverings in key places.”
Tapper, for his part, said he was glad to see the Trump adviser “calling for people to wear masks” before asking Kudlow if that also applies to the president’s supporters at the Tulsa rally.”
“Well, okay, ummm, probably so,” Kudlow sputtered, quickly pivoting to insisting that while cases have increased a bit “we’re not talking about a second round here.”
Mask-wearing has become a political flashpoint as the pandemic has raged and the Trump administration has pushed for a quick reopening of the economy. The president himself has notably refused to wear a mask in public, even when visiting facilities that specifically require face masks, and has gone out of his way to mock political opponents who wear masks.