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'It isn’t ideal, but ...': Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum will allow shelter-in-place order to expire after April 30
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'It isn’t ideal, but ...': Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum will allow shelter-in-place order to expire after April 30

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Mayor G.T. Bynum gives update on a phase reopening of Tulsa during April 24 press conf.

Mayor G.T. Bynum grudgingly announced Friday that he will not extend his shelter-in-place order beyond April 30, setting in motion a phased reopening of the local economy as the county’s rate of new COVID-19 infections continues to trend upward.

“The White House recommends 14 days of declining test cases before initiating the first phase of rollbacks,” Bynum said during a press conference. “According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma meets that benchmark. This is great news for all of us in Oklahoma, and I don’t think we’d be there if it weren’t for the actions taken by our metro areas during this pandemic event.

“The challenge is that according to the Tulsa Health Department, Tulsa County has yet to meet that first criteria. According to the Tulsa Health Department, our cases in Tulsa County in the last 14 days are in fact trending upward, not down.”

Bynum’s remarks came two days after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced that the state would begin a phased reopening of the economy Friday. Phase one includes the reopening of personal care businesses like hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and pet groomers by appointment only. The order applies only to businesses that are in communities that do not have more restrictions in place.

Bynum said Tulsans won’t be able to go get hair and nail services and pet grooming until after the city’s shelter-in-place order expires on April 30.

Restaurant dining rooms, movie theaters, sporting venues and other businesses will be allowed to reopen May 1. Gyms will also be allowed to reopen, provided staff and volunteers wear masks when interacting with the public.

“Because of the state government’s initiated rollback and the willingness of communities in the region to follow it, we should expect more people to come in contact with one another,” Bynum said. “We should expect the virus to spread at a more rapid pace in our metro area.

“As a result of that increased regional activity, our local health experts tell me that Tulsa’s cases will not go down, they will increase.”

Bynum said it would be futile as well as unfair to Tulsans to wait to phase out restrictions until the White House standard is met, while people 100 miles in every direction are being encouraged to ease social distancing.

“I cannot in good conscience ask Tulsans to continue making these extreme personal and financial sacrifices at such a level in pursuit of a goal that will be impossible to reach in any reasonable period,” Bynum said.

Bynum said the city’s rollback beginning May 1 would reflect federal and state guidelines. Social gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 people or fewer, and all park facilities will remain closed. City pools will not open this summer, Bynum said, but the city’s golf courses and tennis centers will reopen May 1.

People older than 65 and those with compromised immune systems should continue to follow the state’s safer-at-home order, Bynum said.

The mayor encouraged Tulsans to continue to follow social-distancing practices, including wearing masks.

Asked what recommendation he gave to the mayor, Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, said he thought it was too early to lift the shelter-in-place order.

“Today I think it is too early,” he said. “The data is still telling us that we are getting advanced viral circulation through our community. We are not seeing a decrease in our daily test numbers. We’re testing more … we expect to see positive results, but our positive results are trending in the wrong direction.”

Bynum praised Tulsans for their efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus since he began imposing restrictions nearly six weeks ago, saying it has not only saved thousands of lives but prevented hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Hospital officials across the city have assured him that they have sufficient protective equipment and the capacity to handle any increase in patients, the mayor said.

“While I am disappointed that Tulsans were not given the opportunity to position our city at a level of safety recommended by federal authorities,” Bynum said, “I am grateful we have made as much progress as we have, and we have given our health care system the chance it needed to manage the prolonged pandemic event.

“It isn’t ideal, but I know Tulsans will make the best of the circumstances that have been handed to us. That is what we always do.”


U.S. passes 50,000 deaths: How is the world handling the coronavirus pandemic?

Kevin Canfield

918-645-5452

kevin.canfield

@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @aWorldofKC

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