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Stillwater Declares Municipal State Of Emergency, Citing No Hospital Space Amid COVID Crush

Facebook / Mayor Will Joyce
April 4, 2020, photo of Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce.

The mayor of Stillwater declared a state of emergency Thursday, saying the current surge in COVID cases had pushed the local hospital system to the brink.

"Our health professionals have incessantly warned us that we may reach the point when much-needed medical attention, COVID or non-COVID related, may not be available,” Mayor Will Joyce said in a news release. “We have now reached that critical threshold where our hospital no longer has available staffed beds and without each of us making necessary health changes, the trajectory is anticipated to continue declining.”

"This declaration does not impose any new restrictions or mandates. It is designed to alert the public to the very real crisis at our local hospital and to allow (Stillwater Medical Center) the most possible flexibility in handling this surge in patients," Joyce said.

Joyce said Stillwater Medical Center was working with the Oklahoma State Department of Health to construct an overflow tent and call for emergency volunteers in order to handle the crush of patients.

"Due to current high volume of patients and shortage of hospital staff, the Medical Reserve Corp would provide additional nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, and medical assistants throughout the weekend at minimum. They will help man overflow tents that will be constructed Friday morning outside of the Emergency Department and assist with increases of patient volume as space allows," Joyce said.

“With the upcoming holiday weekend, several large events and our current lack of available beds and staffing, we are extremely concerned about an additional surge of patients needing medical care.” said Shyla Eggers, the hospital's public relations director, said in a statement.

The declaration takes effect Friday, the day before thousands of fans are due for the Oklahoma State football home opener, where neither masks nor proof of vaccines are required for attendance at Boone Pickens Stadium. Joyce said vaccines would be available at the stadium on game day.

"Please do everything you can to avoid the need for hospital care. I'm not just talking about getting vaccinated (I hope you will), I'm also talking about staying hydrated if you're out tailgating this weekend, celebrating responsibly at the lake on Labor Day, making sure you have a designated driver if you're drinking, and any other precautions you can take," the mayor said.

Stillwater Medical Center has reportedly struggled to manage the increased number of COVID patients for weeks, with a hospitalist telling KOKH Fox 25 in Oklahoma City last month that multiple patients had died waiting for care, unable to be transferred elsewhere in the state as no other facilities had the capacity to receive patients.

The office of Gov. Kevin Stitt did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the state of emergency in Oklahoma's ninth-largest city. Stitt, who has not held a COVID-19 press conference since March, has maintained a gubernatorial emergency declaration is not necessary.

Update (Friday, Sept. 3, 9:45 a.m.): After this story originally published, Stitt communications director Carly Atchison told Public Radio Tulsa the governor's office had no comment regarding the state of emergency in Stillwater.


Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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