- Tulsa's hospitals are urging neighboring cities and the governor's office to enforce mask-wearing, but nobody is taking their pleas seriously, Mayor G.T. Bynum told Business Insider.
- Oklahoma is one of the states that in recent weeks has seen a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
- Hospitals in Tulsa are overburdened and unable to meet the demands, Bynum said.
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Hospitals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are overburdened as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the state — but neither the governor nor the communities relying on these hospitals are paying attention to cries for help.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum told Business Insider that the number of confirmed cases is rising too quickly for hospitals to meet the demands. Tulsa represents one of the many cities whose hospitals are becoming dangerously overwhelmed as coronavirus cases continue to spike nationwide.
Tulsa hospitals typically become short-staffed between October and February, Bynum said, because flu season brings in an influx of people looking for care. But this year has been particularly difficult as the state grapples with both the seasonal flu and an uptick in coronavirus cases.
On Monday night, the city reached its intensive-care unit capacity and was forced to reroute people to regional hospitals outside Tulsa, Bynum said.
Last week, Adam Paluka, an official with Tulsa's Emergency Medical Services Authority cautioned that health officials might have to work with regional hospitals to find patients an ICU bed if they need one. "If there weren't any in the county, then they would just go further out until they found one," he said, according to the Tulsa World.
According to Bynum, only about a third of the patients relying on hospital care in the city are from Tulsa. The other roughly 68% of people occupying Tulsa hospitals are from outside it.
These are "people that live in communities that are outside our ability to regulate, other communities around the state of Oklahoma," Bynum said.
The rising cases are harming the ability of city employees to receive care. Bynum said one employee was denied hospital care until they developed pneumonia, and another was sent home with a 106-degree fever.
Pleas for a mask ordinance
Tulsa is one of the only Oklahoma cities that has a mask ordinance, requiring its citizens to wear a face-covering when social distancing is not possible. Neighboring cities and towns generally do not enforce mask-wearing, and there is no statewide order.
"The city of Tulsa is really an anomaly in that regard," Bynum said.
He believes that a statewide mask order would help curtail the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 296,000 people, but Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Still has thus far failed to issue one. .
Stitt did issue a mandate ordering restaurants and bars to close by 11 p.m., but Bynum says that's just one step toward successfully stopping the spread of the virus.
The governor's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The issue is "outside our ability to do anything, to act in a way that would cause mitigation strategies that can lessen the burden on our hospitals," Bynum added. He believes a coordinated statewide effort is the only way to stop the spread of the virus. "We've reached a point in this pandemic where we're beyond the ability of individual communities to effectively regulate this."
Tulsa hospitals have been sounding off, Bynum said, with health officials urging surrounding cities and the governor's office to enforce a mask mandate.
"One thing that we pride ourselves on as Oklahomans is that we're a place where neighbors help each other out when they're in hard times. And when somebody asks for help, communities pull together and help them out," Bynum said. "And yet we're in a situation here where our hospitals, our medical professionals are on the front lines trying to combat this virus, and they're asking for help, and they're not getting it from so many areas. And that's not the Oklahoma that I believe we are."
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