'Something Has To Change': Officials Considering Added Measures As Local COVID Numbers Trend Upward

Oct 13, 2020

Local officials on Tuesday painted a dire picture of the weeks and months to come if COVID-19 infection and hospitalization trends don't improve in the Tulsa area.

"Currently, our 14-, 30- and 60-day trends are all showing an increase. Our 7-day rolling average is also increasing. Our 7-day rolling average is above where we were in mid- to late-July, just before our biggest spike in cases," said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department.

"As of [Wednesday], we will officially have reached 3% of all Tulsa County residents having tested positive," Dart said. "We know the true number of cases in Tulsa County is much more than the number of confirmed positive test results, but this is a milestone."

"This outbreak, as a reminder, is not going away. We've got to come together, figuratively speaking, to slow the spread of this virus to protect the most vulnerable. Hospitalizations are increasing across the state, and it will continue if we don't start doing everything we can to slow the spread," Dart said.

"Don't wait. Let's be proactive. Don't wait until our hospitals are full to take action," he said.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he had planned an upcoming meeting with Dart and several members of the Tulsa City Council to consider if the city needs to implement more restrictive measures beyond the city's mask ordinance put in place in July. 

"The level of hospitalization that I'm seeing, especially over the last week, where we're getting to, is not a safe level for us as a city," the mayor said.

"It has reached a level that I don't feel comfortable with," Bynum said.

"What types of mitigation measures need to be put in as we see those rates creeping back up? That's something that the council and I will be discussing over the next couple of weeks, would be my expectation," Bynum said.

"I'm fairly certain that something has to change because of the level of elevated hospitalizations we're seeing," Bynum said. 

The mayor also repeated his call for a statewide mask mandate to deal with Tulsa suburbs which have resisted requiring face coverings, saying he, Dart, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. all support such an order from Gov. Kevin Stitt. Stitt has spent months refusing to do so, even after the Trump White House recommended it multiple times.

Asked whether Tulsa is in danger of running out of ICU beds, as was reported in Oklahoma City this week, Dart said the city's hospitals remain in "good shape" for now but said that outcome was very possible dependent on peoples' behavior.

"If we don't follow guidelines, we could always be in danger," Dart said. 

"If people don't continue to be vigilant," said Dart, "of course it would be something for us to be worried about, because this is what happens when we're not being safe."

Dart said the highest risk settings with the most cases were, from most to least, K-12 schools, health care settings, correctional facilities, food service facilities, long-care facilities and nursing homes, and college dormitories.

As of Tuesday, Tulsa County was reporting more active infections among residents than ever before, with 2,148 people currently positive for the disease. In total, 19,473 county residents are known to have been infected over the course of the pandemic, with 180 fatalities.