Bruce Dart

City of Tulsa

While Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart were clear that they believe Tulsans should be following the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommending universal masking regardless of vaccination status due to the current surge in COVID-19 infections, neither would comment Thursday on whether they support an ordinance currently working its way through the city council that would mandate the wearing of them.

City of Tulsa

Leaders from several Tulsa health care systems joined with local officials Friday for an update on the increasingly precarious COVID-19 situation in the area, calling on residents to do their part in helping stem the rising tide of largely preventable hospitalizations and suffering stemming from low vaccination rates and the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

What is the Delta Variant, and how is it related to the novel Coronavirus? What exactly do we know about the rapid spread of the Delta Variant now happening in Tulsa County -- and across our state? And what's the relationship between this rate of spreading and Oklahoma's relatively low vaccination rate? Are there other Coronavirus variants out there -- either here in the US or worldwide? And when will American kids under the age of 12 be allowed to get vaxxed? Our guests on ST Medical Monday are Dr. Bruce Dart, Executive Director of the Tulsa Health Department, and Dr.

Tulsa Health Department

The Tulsa Health Department announced Monday a new text message campaign targeting Tulsa County residents who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Text message reminders are proven effective for increasing vaccination uptake, and we are looking for creative ways to generate awareness and reach herd immunity,” THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said in a statement. “We expect that for those who are open to getting vaccinated but haven’t followed through, these types of reminders will be an effective nudge toward vaccination."

City of Tulsa

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday that while the city's mandatory COVID-19 mask ordinance will be expiring at the end of Friday -- including a requirement for food service employees to wear masks while working -- certain other restrictions will remain in place.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday he believes allowing the city's COVID-19 mandatory mask ordinance to expire at the end of this month, as is currently planned, is the right move.

"Our hospital capacity is not in danger any longer," Bynum told reporters Thursday morning at an in-person press conference at City Hall, the first held that way in months, since COVID-19 briefings were moved all-virtual due to the severe surge in infections this winter.

Tulsa Airport

Next week is spring break, and Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart has some advice for families who may be considering getting out of town.

The Tulsa Health Department announced Thursday it will cancel all COVID-19 vaccination operations scheduled through Monday due to icy roads and an expected snow storm.

“When we consider canceling, we don’t take that decision lightly and there’s a lot of thought that goes in to that decision,” said THD Division Chief of Prevention, Preparedness and Response Kelly VanBuskirk in a statement. “We know residents are anxious and ready to receive their first or second dose, however, it comes down to the safety of them and our staff.”

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, spoke with Public Radio Tulsa on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 10, about the department's cancelation of 2,000 vaccine appointments that day due to inclement weather. He also discussed how recently announced plans for a federal mass vaccination site for Tulsa County fell through.

Tulsa Health Department

Wednesday's icy conditions have led to the cancelation of all scheduled Tulsa Health Department vaccination appointments for the day.

"Due to inclement weather, the Tulsa Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Operations are CANCELLED today," the department said in a news release. "Those with appointments and those expected to return for their second dose today have been notified through email. They will receive a follow-up email with instructions regarding when their new appointment date and time will be. They do not need to reschedule through the Oklahoma Vaccine Portal."

The novel coronavirus continues to spread in the Tulsa metropolitan area, as local officials said on Thursday some metrics are improving while others are continuing to go in the wrong direction.

"By Jan. 18, more than 9% of all Tulsa County residents had tested positive for COVID-19," said Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, at a virtual press conference Thursday morning. "We're on track to reach 10% of our population being positive within 12 days."

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Tuesday he's hopeful changes in the way the federal government apportions COVID-19 vaccine doses could be good news for Tulsa County.

"We think it'll be very impactful," Dart said on a virtual press update Tuesday morning. "Especially because we know we have quite a few private providers who have signed up to be distributors of the vaccine to their patients as well as pharmacies and urgent cares. We would have a much larger number of distribution points."

Tulsa Health Department

While the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma is being universally celebrated by public health officials, health care workers and medical leaders, they are stressing that the immunizations won't have immediate impact on infection levels and vigilance is still necessary to prevent unnecessary transmission of the virus.

"It is here to stay, regardless of our vaccination process," said Dr. Jennifer Clark of the OSU Center for Health Sciences' Project ECHO faculty team. "Masking is going to be with us for probably the next year to two years until we get appropriately immunized."

Twitter / @GovStitt

Despite clear guidance from the CDC and a top White House coronavirus official against such behavior due to the devastating surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday he plans to attend a college football game and celebrate Thanksgiving with members of his family outside his immediate household.

"I'm going to be with my family over Thanksgiving. I'm going to do it safely. I'm going to be with my parents. I think Oklahomans should be with their loved ones over Thanksgiving," Stitt said at a press briefing at the state Capitol. 

City of Broken Arrow

Despite worsening COVID-19 numbers as the pandemic heightens to its direst point ever in Oklahoma and nationwide, the Broken Arrow City Council Tuesday showed little interest in pursuing the sort of mandatory mask ordinance passed by Tulsa, Jenks and Sapulpa, spending more time at their meeting asserting false claims about masks and the pandemic, and calling for more civility on "both sides" of the issue.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Citing the need to address the troublingly high increases in COVID-19 infections throughout Tulsa County, officials are cautioning against many traditional activities associated with the upcoming holidays that may trigger further spread of the coronavirus.

Courtesy Sam Vicent Davis (Twitter @samanthavicent)

The Republican Party of Tulsa County is defending its decision to hold a large, indoor event earlier this week on the evening of Election Day, even as COVID-19 infections and deaths are surging and as local health officials and hospital leaders are pleading with county residents to take more responsibility to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

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.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa officials are once again asking for the help of Tulsa County residents and the leaders of neighboring municipalities in beating back a climbing wave of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, said at a press conference Tuesday that most county residents who have contracted COVID-19 lately are choosing to actively impede public health investigators by refusing to answer the questions of contact tracers.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

(This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 16, to add a response from Derek Pate, Director of the Center for Health Statistics at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.)

The Tulsa Health Department said Thursday it would be making changes to the way it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations after determining the Oklahoma State Department of Health data it previously relied on was inaccurate.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Younger students will be allowed to return to in-person classes next month following a prolonged all-virtual start to the Tulsa Public Schools year caused by troubling local rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The Tulsa Public Schools board came up with its own plan for students to come back to school. Over the course of a seven-hour meeting, they settled on pre-K and kindergarten students returning on Nov. 9 and attending Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be distance learning days.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

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.

City of Tulsa

The annual "Don't Bug Me" flu awareness campaign from the Tulsa Health Department and Hillcrest HealthCare System has returned, as officials stress the importance of preventing the spread of the flu at a time when COVID-19 is already impacting hospital capacity.

Tulsa Health Department

The Tulsa Health Department has introduced a new, color-coded COVID-19 alert map, which Director Dr. Bruce Dart says is meant to help inform residents of the Tulsa metro of up-to-date risk levels in their communities.

"I think the more knowledge they have about where risk truly is allows them to follow recommendations and follow guidelines to keep themselves safe, and that's really what we're after," Dart said at a Monday press conference.

City of Tulsa

The Oklahoma State Medical Association on Wednesday issued a letter in support of amending Tulsa's mask ordinance to require masks for children 10 years and up.

Oklahoma State University

As some colleges and universities across the country have become hotbeds for new COVID-19 outbreaks since welcoming students back to campus for fall semester, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday stressed that students at Oklahoma institutions should remain on campus if they become infected.

Facebook / City of Tulsa Gov

At a Thursday press conference, local officials said concern is growing alongside COVID-19 infections as more Tulsa County children catch the novel coronavirus.

"In the 5-to-17 age group, there were over 100 cases last week," Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said, adding that some in that age group were hospitalized.

Twitter / @realdonaldtrump

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s former state epidemiologist warned that President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa in June could lead to as many as nine deaths and 228 new cases of COVID-19, according to documents released Wednesday.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

One day after Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, called for all municipalities in Tulsa County to introduce a mask mandate similar to the city of Tulsa's to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials in some of those cities and towns showed no indication they plan to take the guidance.

"We have discussed it, and the Bixby council is not willing to pass a mask mandate at this time," said Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

(This story was updated at 5:02 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27th, to include additional information from the Tulsa Health Department on settings connected to COVID-19 infections.)

Following newly released documents from the White House coronavirus task force recommending that the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County implement more stringent measures to combat the pandemic, local officials on Thursday stressed local expertise and knowledge are more targeted and relevant than the federal suggestions.