A chapel bell rang outside, too distant for some to hear indoors, and the murmur of a hundred conversations faded gradually as people realized the time had come. At noon Monday, Saint Francis Hospital fell silent.
Or at least, as silent as a major hospital ever gets. A wheelchair rumbled down the corridor. An elevator door slid open. A cellphone rang and a doctor scrambled away to answer it. The business of saving lives must go on even while Tulsa marked the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in the city.
Oklahoma’s first patient walked into a Warren Clinic Urgent Care site early last March. And the entire Saint Francis Health System commemorated the historic occasion with a minute of silence. Maintenance workers put down their tools. Nurses stood still. The cafeteria even stopped serving food for a minute.
“It’s a moment of sadness,” said cardiologist Adam Karpman, “for all the people we have lost, but also a moment of gratitude for how well we all worked together.”
Tulsa County has reported 70,949 cases and 704 deaths since the pandemic reached Oklahoma a year ago, officials said. Hospitals, however, have seen a steep decline in cases over recent weeks as vaccines become more widely available, Karpman said. Nonetheless, the doctor urged Tulsans to continue wearing masks in public and taking other precautions to keep the virus from surging again.
“It’s a time for hope,” Karpman said, “but also a time for vigilance. It’s not over.”
By the time Tulsa marks the second anniversary of COVID-19, “I hope we are back to normal,” Karpman said. “I hope we are all out doing the things we want to do.”
Dozens of churches and other organizations joined Saint Francis in the minute of silence Monday.
“We are honoring those we have tragically lost while recognizing the sacrifices we have made together as a community,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “I want to share my profound gratitude to my fellow Tulsans for your perseverance and to our frontline health care heroes and first responders for leading our community through this global pandemic.”