Tulsa mayor prepares mask order as coronavirus cases surge

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tulsa's mayor said Friday he's preparing a local order to require masks be worn in public as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to surge.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a Facebook post that he expects the ordinance to be presented to the city council next week.

“Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department notified my office that continued trend data indicates the need for an ordinance requiring face coverings in public places," Bynum wrote. “This is necessary to slow the current rate of viral spread that will endanger our health care system’s ability to treat those in need if it is not addressed."

Tulsa reported 261 new confirmed cases on Monday, the city's highest daily total to date. Dart said President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa last month, along with large groups of protesters, “more than likely" contributed to the city's surge.

Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday that despite a dramatic increase in hospitalizations and confirmed cases of coronavirus, he had no plans to implement a requirement to wear masks in public, although he said he supports the right of local municipalities to do so.

Stillwater and Norman earlier this week implemented requirements that people wear masks in public.

Oklahoma health officials on Friday reported an additional 596 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the state to more than 19,000. The actual number of cases is likely much higher since many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms.

The state also reported an additional six deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 416. The latest reported deaths — one each in Garvin, McCurtain and Muskogee counties and three in Tulsa County — were all in the 65-and-older age group.

The health department on Thursday released a new, four-tiered risk measurement tool with corresponding color categories that identify the current COVID-19 risk level by county. The map shows four counties — McClain, McCurtain, Ottawa and Tulsa — with moderate risk, third-highest category.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.