Officials in Tulsa said Thursday that a direct causal connection cannot be drawn between the coronavirus infection of former presidential candidate Herman Cain and his attendance at President Trump's rally last month at the BOK Center.
"I don't know how he caught it," Mayor G.T. Bynum said of Cain, who, like the majority of the 6,000-person crowd at the rally, did not wear a mask in the arena. "I haven't seen any conclusive information on where he got it from."
Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department and a personal friend of Cain, agreed.
"We don't know," Dart said. "Mr. Cain was 74. I don't know what his health status was. As we've talked about, there were a lot of people there. I don't know if we can ever strictly say that Mr. Cain was infected at the rally."
"And frankly, for me, that's irrelevant," Dart said. "The fact that he was infected and subsequently passed away -- that's what's important, and that's why we need to continue talking about, how do we stop spread? Avoiding large gatherings, wearing masks, physical distancing -- that's where the conversation should be."
Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, who only recently returned to work after her own battle with COVID-19, said it couldn't be ruled out that Cain caught the virus at the rally.
"We don't really know yet where he caught it, but I would think that's certainly a possibility," Keith said. "Which scares me -- I mean, there's a photograph with our governor sitting right next to him."
Gov. Kevin Stitt, like Cain, tested positive for COVID-19 in the weeks following the rally.
In June, Dart publicly and repeatedly recommended that the rally should not be held, citing the virus's easy transmission in a large gathering of maskless people indoors. Despite that recommendation, and a letter signed by hundreds of health care workers asking the mayor to step in, Bynum did not attempt to intervene to stop the rally, instead calling it a "tremendous honor" while also acknowledging he was "not positive that everything is safe."