Though the reopening of Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa came sooner than Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart would have liked, both men announced Thursday that the current data concerning COVID-19 support moving into the next stage of reopening.
"Many of you will recall my frustration that Tulsa County was going to go ahead and enter into -- at least we were in the City of Tulsa, and our colleagues in neighboring cities would -- phase one of the state's reopening plan at the same time that our positive cases were trending upwards," Bynum said at a virtual news conference. "We did not meet the White House criteria at the time."
"The good news as we approach phase two tomorrow is that we do meet the criteria this time," Bynum said. "All week long we have maintained that 14-day downward trajectory, and I think it's remarkable when you consider that we've maintained that kind of downward trajectory at a time when social distancing regulations have been eased in our community."
"It's a real testament to everyday Tulsans and responsible business owners going about their way in a safe way," Bynum said.
Beginning Friday, bars will be allowed to reopen, and gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed.
But Bynum and Dart were quick to caution that this doesn't mean the virus is defeated.
"We know based on everything that I've been told by both our local public health experts and also on a national level that when you reduce social distancing restrictions, and you have more people out and about, you're going to see an increase in cases," Bynum said, but the local health system should be equipped to deal with a spike, and restrictions may be reintroduced if needed.
"While phase two permits more people to gather, it's important for everyone to bear in mind their responsibility to limit spread," Dart said. "This virus is still here."
"We have to continue following guidelines to keep us safe, our families safe, and our neighborhoods and communities safe," Dart said. "It may seem like it hasn't been working, but the data is clear that it is working."
"We will continue to follow the data. As with everything else with COVID-19, things change rapidly. If that changes, we'll be the first to let you know," Dart told Tulsans. "Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your due diligence. Thank you for being part of this response in your own way."
The Oklahoma State Department of Health has confirmed 743 cases of COVID-19 in Tulsa County since the start of the outbreak. 603 patients have recovered, which the state characterizes as having not died and being discharged from the hospital at least 14 days after a patient's last positive test. 37 Tulsa County residents have died.