Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum after Tuesday's Tulsa World print edition went to press.
No intensive care unit beds were available in Tulsa hospitals Monday night amid record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Regional Medical Response System confirmed.
Adam Paluka, a spokesman for the system’s District 7 in Tulsa, told the Tulsa World on Monday night that the capacity limit applies to hospitals in the city but not the entirety of Tulsa County.
He had said earlier in the evening that two Tulsa hospitals still had ICU beds available, and he noted Monday night that the situation can change by the hour.
He said “it’s been a concern” that beds could fill as the numbers of COVID-19 cases continued to rise, culminating Monday in the state’s reporting a seven-day rolling average of about 2,050 new cases per day.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported that adult ICU bed availability across the state was down to 6% — or 53 beds — as of 9 p.m. Monday.
The agency said 1,102 people were hospitalized in the state on Monday night with either confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, of whom 334 were in ICUs.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Monday that it received reports of 2,197 new cases of COVID-19, of which 302 were in Tulsa County. There have been 226 Tulsa County residents who have died after contracting COVID-19.
“If there’s a patient who needs an ICU bed, RMRS (the Oklahoma Regional Medical Response System) and the hospital would work in conjunction to find that patient a bed,” Paluka said of the situation in Tulsa. “They would work within the county to find an ICU bed. If there weren’t any in the county, then they would just go further out until they found one.
“It’s disheartening, but we’re still going to do what we do every day: respond to the needs of our community.”
The announcement comes ahead of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plans for a 2 p.m. news conference Tuesday with state Health Commissioner Lance Frye to provide an update on the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
Stitt issued a statement over the weekend as new case reports exceeded 4,000 in a single day — by far the highest on record in the state — but has refused to impose a statewide mask mandate.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, issued a statement Monday reiterating calls for Stitt to impose a mask mandate and is also holding a press conference on Tuesday.
“Keep washing your hands frequently, watch your distance from others, and wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible or visiting indoor public places,” Stitt said in his statement. “You have heard me say these things before, but we need everyone to take these actions seriously. They work.
“Oklahomans pulled together back in April so we could safely reopen our economy, and I am asking for that same unified effort once again to slow the spread of this virus and keep Oklahomans safe,” he said.
The Oklahoma Hospital Association worked with state leaders on a tier-based hospital surge plan announced Oct. 21 that takes into account COVID-19 hospitalizations by region.
Oklahoma City was the first area in the state to enter Tier 3 — of four total tiers — last week after reporting more than 20% of staffed beds are filled with COVID-19 patients.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said during a news conference late last month that the “vast majority” of COVID-19 patients in Tulsa hospitals are coming from outside the Tulsa city limits. Bynum and the City Council agreed on a mask ordinance this summer that remains in effect through January.
Bynum's office issued a statement late Monday night, saying the city also would hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“Tonight I have been in communication with the State Department of Health, the Tulsa Health Department, and local hospital leadership," Bynum said in a news release. "Hospitals are enacting their surge plans for managing ICU patient care on a regional basis.
“Just as our health care system is a regional one, our response to fighting COVID-19 must be a regional one too. Tulsans cannot fight this on our own.
"I again implore the state and our neighboring communities to listen to those medical professionals asking for steps to be taken that will slow the spread of this virus. Politically convenient speeches about freedom and personal responsibility are not preventing our ICUs from being maxed out.
“The Tulsa City Council and I will continue to act on the guidance of local public health experts.”
Broken Arrow Mayor Craig Thurmond and city councilors there have refused to implement a mask requirement.
Jenks city councilors will meet Tuesday to consider whether to implement a mask mandate there that would be similar to the one in Tulsa.
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