(TNS) - Cheryl Brown said she takes COVID-19 seriously, and she wants the city of Muskogee to do it as well.
“As our city leaders and our county leaders, we can strongly encourage people to wear a mask, but we all know, it’s not working,” Brown told Muskogee city councilors during their Monday meeting. “People are not doing it.”
Oklahoma State Health Department figures show the number of active cases within the city of Muskogee continue to climb. On Tuesday, the agency reported a cumulative total of 761 cases within the city’s municipal boundaries, 16 deaths and 560 reported recoveries, leaving 185 active cases.
“That’s the highest number that I’ve got recorded,” Muskogee Emergency Management Director Tyler Evans said Tuesday afternoon.
“Obviously everyone has become accustomed to COVID-19 — it’s been going on for more than six months now — people are getting impatient, they’re ready to get back to life pre-COVID,” Evans said, citing that as an unfortunate aspect of the public response to the pandemic. “Maybe people have not seen anyone become ill from it, they don’t have a family member who’s become ill from it, they feel more predisposed to take risks that influence COVID-19 spreading.”
Brown said the nursing home where her mother stays was COVID-free from March through mid-August until an employee tested positive, “and the number kept going up.” She said by Sept. 14 the facility reported 22 cases, a situation she considers “an outbreak.”
“I received a call on the 18th of September that my mother has COVID-19,” Brown said, urging city councilors to do more to mitigate community transmission of the novel coronavirus. “She’s the only parent I’ve ever had, and she’s in isolation with COVID. The nursing homes are doing whatever they can, but we as a community have to do our part.”
Brown said the city must pass a mask mandate.
Evans said the state health department ranks Muskogee County as a moderate-risk for new COVID-19 cases. Recommendations for residents of areas with this classification include wearing face coverings while in public and maintaining a distance of six feet between others — additional precautions are advised for those who attend larger gatherings.
Doug Walton, community liaison for the Muskogee County Health Department, also expressed concern about active cases. State data reported Tuesday show there have been 1,846 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Muskogee County since March, which includes 23 deaths, 1,566 reported recoveries, and 257 active cases.
“We still strongly encourage that the measures in place, and highly recommended by the city and state, if practiced diligently, will work to reduce the spread,” Walton said. “Wearing face covering any time in public, maintaining distance of six feet or greater.”
City Manager Mike Miller told city councilors and those attending Monday’s meeting that now is not the time to let down their guard.
“If you look around the audience, we do have a mask rule for our city facilities,” he said. “If you’re not wearing a mask here at this meeting today, you need to be wearing a mask.”
Masks are required inside the Hatbox Event Center, including the arena and hangars, Muskogee Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson said. The requirement will remain in place during this weekend’s Jeep Jam and Friday’s Cody Canada & The Departed concert, he said.
Some public facilities and public events require masks.
Eastern Oklahoma Library System, which includes Muskogee Public Library, requires masks and limits access to the facility as part of its COVID-19 protocols.
“We are greeting everyone who comes through the door to make sure they have masks on,” Muskogee Branch Manager Jessica Conley said. “We have asked people to leave if they wouldn’t comply.”
The library also limits the number of patrons inside the building to 30 at any time. Use of the genealogy department is by appointment only.
Muskogee Public Schools requires masks at all its athletic events. Capacity is limited to 50% at home games, said MPS Athletic Director Jason Parker.
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