By Matt Trotter

Public Radio Tulsa


Tulsa leaders took surrounding communities to task over delayed action to lessen the spread of COVID-19 cases during a news conference Thursday.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he understands it can be a difficult decision to shut down businesses and cancel events, but leading health experts are saying that’s the only way to prevent a spike in serious illness that could overwhelm hospitals.

“You have that advice on one hand, and then on the other hand, you’ve got bumper sticker slogans and out-of-context quotes from founding fathers. I don’t think that’s a hard decision to make,” Bynum said.

Bynum canceled until April 15 city-led and -permitted gatherings of more than 50 people over the weekend. He ordered bars closed and restaurants limited to takeout or delivery on Tuesday.

The City of Broken Arrow is set to consider an emergency declaration today, but until now, officials have not ordered any closures.

The City of Bixby declared a civil emergency on Thursday and the City of Owasso declared a civil emergency on Tuesday. Both cancel events but don’t go as far as Tulsa in closing businesses. For example, they encourage restaurants to allow for 6 feet of space between patrons and discourage gyms from continuing group classes.

Sand Springs declared a similar civil emergency on Thursday.

County Commissioner Karen Keith said Tulsa County does not have authority to order any business to shut down, but the State Health Department and Health Commissioner Gary Cox do.

“I, personally, am urging them to that. I am also personally, as an elected official, I am asking that our suburban areas please pay attention to what Mayor Bynum has done. Let’s be smart. Let’s contain this,” Keith.

The city and county have also limited access to public buildings and postponed non-emergency court hearings.