By Kim Marsh-MacLeod 

kmarshmacleod@gmail.com

 

With religious holidays being observed now and through next week, Tulsa City and County officials said it is crucial to continue following the guidelines for preventing an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County.

Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa County Health Department, said the models they review to predict infections and deaths from Coronavirus are showing reductions, but the peak of infections is expected to begin to hit late next week, so it is a crucial time to remain at home and continue social distancing, covering the mouth and nose with a face mask or cloth such as a bandana, and engage in frequent handwashing.

As of today, Dart said there are 314 cases of COVID-19 infections reported by Tulsa County. Sixteen have died, including 12 caucasions, three African Americans and one of an unknown ethnic background. The average age of patients who have died from the virus is 71.

Dart and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum thanked Tulsans for the measures they have taken so far to keep the medical system from being overwhelmed.

“We have been able to reduce the number of potential infections and deaths from previous versions of the models. The current Tulsa County model projects 176,000 infections total from February through August, including people who have already gotten it and have recovered, and potentially 2,100 deaths.” 

“Our mobility data shows the more Tulsans stay at home, the more we will be able to revise our numbers,” Dart said. This caution extends to church families as well that may be tempted to meet in groups for prayer.

Mayor G. T. Bynum said it is important to remember that in the lifespan of this virus people don’t immediately contract it and go to the hospital. There is a period of time where the virus builds up and then the infected becomes symptomatic and may need to be hospitalized. While there could be a peak of contagion early next week based on the data, Tulsa should not expect to see that peak load on the hospital system until early May,  he said. 

“That’s what we’ve been doing this social distancing for,” Bynum said. “To allow enough capacity within our healthcare system so that everyone who is the most severe and needs the most medical treatment receives it. “We’ve all spent these last four weeks sacrificing a great deal and all of that has been to prepare for the next couple of weeks,” Bynum said.

Dart pleaded that families continue to stay home and social distance. “Please, for a short time longer, use video chat or call to stay in touch. Use the digital resources we have at this time to celebrate the holidays.

“Spring is a hopeful season. We won’t remain in this indefinitely. I want to remind everyone that life is a series of seasons. There are rhythms to our lives and growth processes. This is a time when we can Introduce positive patterns in our lives; to  slow down, focus on what is truly a priority, family health and community. We can feel hopeful that something bright is ahead for all of us and we will keep moving forward,” Dart said. 

Bynum reiterated Dart’s optimism, stating that there is good news from his vantage point. 

“What we’ve just spent weeks doing, for the last four weeks as a metro area, it’s working,” he said. “When you see the data that our Health Department is utilizing and the way they updated their modeling, for right now versus just a matter of weeks ago, we are talking about thousands of lives being saved by Tulsans who are taking social distancing seriously.

“I ask everyone as you go into this weekend, and I know how much we want to be with our family and friends, that we not think as much about all of the things we can’t do but instead think about what we are part of. We are part of  one of the greatest humanitarian initiatives in the history of humankind. People all around the world are sacrificing in the same way we are,” Bynum said.

The Uninsured

Tulsans concerned about being symptomatic of COVID-19, should stay home and call a medical provider. The Tulsa County Health Department has 400 specimen kits available for symptomatic individuals. Those who are uninsured, underinsured or without a health provider may call 918-592-9355 to be directed to a testing location.

Small Business Loans

Over 800 individuals with businesses have contacted tulsaresponds.org to seek more information on no-interest loans for their nonprofits or businesses to tide them over until federal funding is here in Tulsa. Not only are zero-interest rate loans being funded by the City, but there also are navigators who can help businesses through the application process and also to identify other funds that may be available. The Tulsa Responds website features a section for Frequently Asked Questions that should be helpful before making an application