Despite rapidly rising numbers of new COVID-19 infections, the City of Tulsa’s mitigation working group is not moving toward reimplementing a mask mandate.
City Councilor Kara Joy McKee said there have been calls for that from the community. Right now, the city is going to focus on messaging and other actions that support the Tulsa Health Department’s work to to increase vaccination rates. Currently, 53% of county residents are fully vaccinated.
"There was some real concern from some members of the working group that though masks work and we want everyone to properly wear them in crowds and indoors, as [THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce] Dart told us last week, we need increased vaccinations to get that big help that's essential to getting a grip on the Delta variant that is, frankly, whupping our butts, right?" McKee said.
Strategies like block party vaccination sites, more mobile shot clinics and business support for workers needing time off to get vaccinated are being considered. THD is also working on a layered map to help show people where they can get vaccinated and is hopeful vaccines' emergency use labels will be removed soon and that they'll be approved for younger kids.
City Councilor Crista Patrick said THD is also relying on elected officials to help sway their constituents who are hesitant.
"Each one of our districts function in a slightly different fashion. So, it's important that we look at the unique needs. Some people talk with family, others look to certain employment groups, such as the military or health care workers. So, we just need to really identify what we think will work in our particular areas of the world," Patrick said.
Still, there may not be much room to move the needle. Some studies the working group reviewed said up to 85% of unvaccinated individuals are firm in their stance against getting vaccinated.
THD is recommending everyone follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is for everyone to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. Tulsa County saw more than 2,300 new COVID cases last week, almost 500 more than the week before.
New cases had nearly doubled both of the prior two weeks.
Tulsa County has seen new cases rise for eight consecutive weeks since dropping to 160 in early June. Younger adults continue to account for the most cases.