Tulsa City Council Working Group Not Planning Additional COVID Measures Right Now

Nov 4, 2020

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa County’s active COVID-19 infections are at a record high, but the Tulsa City Council’s working group on the pandemic said on Wednesday no new restrictions are planned at the moment.

"What we saw roll out last March are the tools in the toolbox. Right now, the tool that we have that we want people to use is masking, washing your hands and watching your distance. We don’t want to limit gatherings. We don’t want to impact our community’s economic recovery right now," Councilor Lori Decter Wright said during a council committee meeting held virtually on Wednesday.

Councilor Phil Lakin said the Tulsa Health Department hasn’t yet recommended introducing new restrictions.

"And for those who are concerned, everybody has to take personal responsibility," Decter Wright said.

As of Wednesday, Tulsa County had 2,453 active cases of COVID-19. There have been new highs in the active case count each of the past three days.

On a weekly videoconference organized by the OSU Center for Health Sciences Project ECHO on Wednesday, THD director Dr. Bruce Dart said he is recommending people not hold traditional, large Thanksgiving gatherings, but that he isn’t too optimistic people will listen to him.

"So far, people really have not done a good job of following recommendations, and frankly, that whole ‘personal responsibility’ thing isn’t working very well," Dart said. 

Dart said he will be skipping his own family's Thanksgiving in Nebraska.

Dart said THD is looking into new messaging campaigns in an attempt to get more Tulsa County residents to play their part in reducing virus spread.

"If people have a better way to message that, please tell us what it is," Dart said on the Project ECHO call.

"You know, when you look at the same thing every day, you tend to look past it and not even notice it any more," said Councilor Crista Patrick, a member of the council working group, on the council meeting call. "So how do you get people to reengage? Because we all are tired of having to deal with COVID-19, but COVID-19 is not tired of us."

Councilor Kara Joy McKee said current messaging is creating confusion.

"When we see these big events going on, it's really hard for the public to catch that we're saying that, 'This is safe and vetted, and we feel confident about this large event, because our data is showing us that when we do a large event and we're really vetting it and we're going through all these checkmarks, that that doesn't seem to be causing a superspreader event,'" McKee said.

"But your at-home barbecue of ten or more people is dangerous? That seems really dissonant for people. It's a real messaging clash," McKee said.

Decter Wright said THD is waiting on federal CARES Act funds to pay for a new ad campaign.

Lakin said Mayor G.T. Bynum will be convening a meeting with Dart and a group of leaders from Tulsa-area municipalities next week to discuss possible coordination to address the spread of the virus. To date, neighboring municipalities in Tulsa County have declined to introduce a mask mandate like the one adopted by the city of Tulsa in July. The mayor has expressed frustration at their refusal, noting that the majority of patients in Tulsa hospitals are not from the city of Tulsa but from outside city limits.