A week to the day after Tulsa hit an all-time high for hospitalizations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local officials sounded a hopeful note that a recent return to vigilance is sparking a turnaround.
“Since (July 23) we are actually from a hospitalization standpoint back to where we were about two weeks ago. We’re on a downward trajectory,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday at the weekly city-county COVID-19 briefing.
But while that’s “good news,” he added, he cautioned that “we’re still at historically high levels of hospitalizations.”
“The things we’re doing locally are starting to make a difference,” the mayor said. “But we cannot get lax. All we are showing is that we have a two-week run of doing the right thing. We have weeks to go, months to go, before we get back to the levels we want to be, where we were back in May.”
To what degree this last week’s downward turn is related to the city’s new mask mandate, Bynum said he couldn’t say.
“Even leading into (the mandate) there was an elevated awareness among Tulsans that our medical community was really concerned about this,” he said.
But he said he’s thankful to the community for following the mandate.
“It’s been really encouraging to see folks all over town with masks on,” the mayor said. “I continue to hear from business owners and everyday citizens who just feel safer going around the city, knowing that Tulsans are taking this seriously.”
Bynum noted that the city website has special posters available for use by business owners. The posters indicate that masks are required by ordinance.
“It takes the burden off the business owner for being the bad guy and puts it on city. That’s what we’re here for,” the mayor said.
Bynum was joined at the briefing by Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart and Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, who recently recovered from COVID-19.
Asked about schools reopening, Dart said the health department cannot tell districts what to do, but “the safer option is virtual learning.”
“Frankly, there’s no right or wrong answer for parents, but the one that you and your family feel comfortable with is the choice that we recommend that you follow,” he said.
In an overview of the county’s most recent numbers, Dart said the 18-35 age group continues to have the most cases, and represented 39% of all reported cases for the week of July 19-25.
“In fact, now more than half of all cases in Tulsa County are people aged 35 and younger,” he said.
The age group 5-17 makes up a larger portion of cases compared to last week, while for age 65 and older, cases are declining.
He said over 30% of all hospitalizations are in age groups under 50.
Dart said THD now has two accessible testing locations in Tulsa: North Regional Health and Wellness Center, 5636 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and in a former medical office at 101st Street and South Memorial Drive.
COVID-19 basics everyone needs to know as the pandemic continues