The city of Tulsa is considering implementing additional measures to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases.
City Councilor Phil Lakin said Wednesday that the city’s COVID-19 working group met recently to discuss what more the city could do to slow the spread of the virus.
The working group is made up of Mayor G.T. Bynum, Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart, four city councilors and city legal staff.
“There is very convincing data out there that says that the issues in our community last week and last month and two months before are very different than they are now and that we need to consider what other measures we may need to take,” Lakin said during a council committee meeting.
One focus of discussions has been on enforcement of the city’s existing mask ordinance, Lakin said.
“There are situations where businesses are not following our mask mandate and they are not going to file a trespassing complaint against themselves or against anyone in their business, obviously,” he said.
Lakin said the city is still exploring how it could ramp up enforcement efforts without adding an additional burden on police officers.
The city has yet to determine whether the additional enforcement personnel would be provided by the city, the Tulsa Health Department or another entity.
“We do not have all the answers for that. … We are still exploring that, but we are making progress in our exploration,” he said.
Lakin said the city is also considering whether to establish its own distancing requirements for restaurants, bars and other businesses similar to those ordered by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday but that could potentially extend beyond the governor’s 30-day executive order.
The executive order, which takes effect Thursday, requires that restaurants and bars across the state space their tables 6 feet apart and end in-person service at 11 p.m.
Lakin said COVID-19 working group members were not inclined to make the 11 p.m. closing time a part of the city’s ordinances.
“Some people don’t work eight to five. Some people work very different shifts,” he said. “Some people want and need to go get food at the end of their shift.”
Lakin thanked the cities of Jenks and Sapulpa for recently passing mask mandates but chided Owasso for a resolution it passed Tuesday night strongly encouraging its residents to wear masks and take other preventive measures.
“Thanks, Owasso, for trying, but you need to do better,” he said. “And I think other cities around the Tulsa area could do better as well.”
The Glenpool City Council on Wednesday night approved a mask mandate, and the Sand Springs City Council has a special meeting planned for Monday night to consider implementing COVID-19-related regulations.
The city councilors on the COVID-19 working group are Crista Patrick, Lori Decter Wright, Jeannie Cue and Lakin.
Lakin told his fellow councilors that he would be willing to hold a special meeting before Thanksgiving to consider possible changes the city’s COVID-19 response, but the meeting ended without a date being set.
Bynum said that as the pandemic continues to evolve the city is committed to continuously improving its response to the virus.
“Based on the data that shows 68% of COVID hospital patients since September live outside Tulsa, we know the most effective improvement to be made would be a statewide mask order or mask ordinances in surrounding communities,” the mayor said. “But we also know Tulsa can continue to make adjustments that will slow the spread of the virus in our city, too. So we are evaluating what needs to be done, and we are relying on local health care leaders to guide us in that process.”
Video: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum talks about city workers who are in quarantine because of COVID-19
Gallery: COVID-19 basics everyone needs to know as the pandemic continues
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