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Washington, June 21, 2020
United States President Donald Trump held his first rally in more than three months in Tulsa, Oklahoma, despite warnings from health experts against large-scale gatherings amid a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in some states.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters in the Bank of Oklahoma Center on Saturday evening, Trump touted his policies and tore into Democrats and media, while touching upon a series of national issues, including the pandemic, which has infected 2,254,630 and killed 119,714 others in the US.
The President blamed both the tallies, the current highest in the world, on testing, a claim that has been widely disputed.
"When you do testing to that extent, you are gonna find more people, you are gonna find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down please," Trump said.
"They test and they test. We have tests that people don't know what's going on."
He described testing as a "double-edged sword".
Trump told those present that they were "warriors" for attending despite the coronavirus warnings and said that the "silent majority" was "stronger than ever before", the BBC reported.
Taking aim at his Democratic presidential rival, he described Joe Biden as "a helpless puppet of the radical left".
Earlier this week, Trump boasted on Twitter that almost a million people had requested tickets for the event.
But the 19,000-seat arena was far from full and plans for him to address an outside "overflow" area were abandoned, said the BBC report.
The Trump campaign initially said that the Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence would first speak at an outdoor stage set up for overflow crowds.
But when the numbers failed to appear, campaign officials cancelled the outdoor appearance, blaming "radical protesters" and the media for attempting to "frighten off" supporters.
Just hours before the rally, the Trump's re-election campaign said six staff members involved in organising it had tested positive for COVID-19.
The President's re-election campaign rally is one of the biggest indoor gatherings in the US since the pandemic began.
Those attending had to sign a waiver protecting the Trump campaign from responsibility for any illness.
On Friday, Oklahoma's supreme court rejected a lawsuit asking that social distancing guidelines be followed.
However, the Trump campaign said attendees would have to pass temperature checks before being allowed into the venue - and that they would be offered face masks.
rump had initially planned to hold the rally on Friday. But he changed the date last week after learning it fell on June 19, known as Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the US.
The choice of location is also controversial. In 1921, Tulsa was the scene of a massacre in which white mobs attacked black people and businesses, killing an estimated 300 people.