Tulsa City Council votes to expand, extend mask mandate
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Mayor G.T. Bynum on Thursday signed an ordinance expanding and extending Tulsa’s mask mandate in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The mandate initially required masks to be worn in public by people aged 18 and older when social distancing is not possible. But on Wednesday, the Tulsa City Council voted to expand the requirement to anyone aged 10 and older and to extend the mandate until Jan. 31. It had been set to expire Nov. 30.
“Our local health care leaders made clear how important it was for more children to be wearing masks, especially as they return to classrooms,” Bynum said in a statement. “This amendment is critical in a time when we need to continue to ensure the integrity of our local health care system.”
The Tulsa Health Department, which also covers Tulsa County, shows on its website that the seven-day rolling average of cases is 142.1 as of Wednesday, up from 119 a week earlier.
Oklahoma City has a similar mask mandate for anyone aged 11 or older that is to expire Oct. 20.
Both cities allow exceptions such as bar and restaurant patrons who are eating or drinking and those taking part in athletic events.
President Donald Trump held an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20 that drew about 6,000 attendees.
Attendance was smaller than predicted, but also drew protestors and Tulsa City-County Health Department director Bruce Dart said later that the event “likely contributed” to a sharp surge in new coronavirus cases there in the weeks following the rally.
By the first week of July, Tulsa County was confirming more than 200 new daily cases, setting record highs that were more than twice the number the week before the rally.
Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday said Oklahoma has received about 77,000 Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW rapid point-of-care COVID-19 tests.
The tests are to be sent first to public schools, high-risk health care workers and others considered vulnerable to the virus.
The tests use nasal swabs and can provide results within 15 minutes.
INMATE VISITATION SUSPENDED
The Oklahoma State Department of Corrections announced Wednesday that visitation of inmates at all state prisons is suspended until further notice.
The ODOC reports 3,634 of its approximately 25,000 inmates have tested positive for the virus and that 647 cases are currently active.
The department said inmates will be allowed two, 10-minute phone calls per week at no charge in order to talk with their families while visitation is suspended.
OKLAHOMA CITY SCHOOLS
Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest district, has announced plans to resume in-person classes for students if the number of virus cases in Oklahoma County remains below 25 per 100,000 population.
The district on Sept. 25 implemented remote learning for all students after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county increased from 15.8 to 26.2 per 100,000 population.
In a message to students’ families and staff on Wednesday, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Pre-K and kindergarten students are to begin returning Oct. 19 in a blended program of in-person and remote classes. All other students will begin returning in a blended program starting Nov. 9 while athletics and other extra-curricular activities will resume Monday.
The state health department on Thursday reported 88,369 virus cases and 1,035 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, increases of 1,170 cases and four more deaths than reported Wednesday.
The actual number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.