Commissioners delay mask policy as COVID-19 numbers spike

·3 min read

Aug. 4—A resurgence in the number of new COVID-19 cases contributed to the 139% increase in Muskogee County hospital admissions during the month of July.

Muskogee County Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith said the daily count of new cases reported for the county on a per capita basis also increased in July from about 37 a day to 70. Those numbers, he said, combined with test positivity rates higher than 20% places the county in the second-highest risk level for community transmission on a seven-tiered system used by Johns Hopkins University.

"If we increase that by 10 cases a day we will probably be in the black category," Smith said about the color used to depict the category for the highest risk on that scale. "We will probably be there by the end of the week — the numbers are growing exponentially."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the seven-day rolling average for new cases reported in Oklahoma hit a high this past Thursday of 1,495 cases and test positivity rates just above 20%. Those numbers are similar to what Oklahoma was reporting during the first few days of November.

Smith said county-level data has become "kind of scarce" since state officials began reporting information less frequently. He said there is a growing concern about the availability of staffed hospital beds and ambulance transport services — there is additional concerns about the age of COVID-19 patients.

A pediatric clinic in Owasso, Smith said, recently reported it had "admitted more patients with COVID in the past three weeks than it did during the 12 months before that." He said the state does not report COVID-19 data for young children, but there is a growing concern about the delta variant and its impact on younger populations.

Former state Sen. Ben Robinson told city councilors on Monday night the nearest intensive care units accepting ambulance transports on Monday were in Nebraska and Colorado. Robinson was drumming up support for Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service, which is in need of funding for 10 of the 15 units it needs to replace due to extraordinary demands placed on them during the pandemic.

Smith recommended a week ago that commissioners reinstate a mask mandate for Muskogee County Courthouse and County Services Building. Since then, according to the CDC, the seven-day rolling average for new cases in Muskogee County increased 125% with 261 new cases.

District 3 Commissioner Kenny Payne said there have been discussions about the recommendation. He said commissioners have a "pretty good template of what we are going to do," but they weren't ready to pull the trigger.

"There are a couple of things to work out," Payne said. "We should have that done in the next day or so — we'll have an announcement coming soon."

The Warner Police Department reimplemented protocols put in place last year "to help slow the spread" of what public health officials have described as a more virulent variant of the novel coronavirus. All non-emergency calls for service that do not require the presence of an officer will be handled by telephone.

Citizen report forms will be available outside Warner Police Department. Completed forms may be returned to a lockbox, which also is located outside the department, or they may be mailed to the department.

Reports that may be filed without police contact, Warner PD states, include lost property, misdemeanor theft of property other than firearms or materials that pose a threat to public safety, and harassing or threatening telephone calls. These reports also may be filed for hit-and-run collisions when there is no information about the suspect vehicle.

Situations that must be reported to a police officer include domestic violence, assault and battery, hate crimes and firearm complaints. All burglaries, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes should be reported to a police officer.

Warner residents with non-emergency police calls should dial (918) 463-3911 then press 0 to speak with someone or leave a message. All emergency callers should dial 911.

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