Task force officials updated the public on what area schools are doing to address positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff members, as well as discussed events that have been canceled.
Ward 1 Tahlequah City Councilor Bree Long said the Crisis Task Force Team continues to meet the first and third Monday of each month.
“From the health perspective, we continue to see widespread community transmission, the health systems are continuing to increase testing capacity and have resources and capacity that is needed,” Long said. “The need to continue slowing the spread is still extremely important. We should not let up our efforts, even as the numbers decline.”
Long said hospitals are ramping up for the flu season through vaccination efforts.
“The state will change how they report numbers and will also begin including probable cases. This will cause a spike in the numbers,” Long said.
Long said Tahlequah Public Schools recently began its second full week of classes. School officials have been sharing information related to faculty and students who are testing positive for the virus.
“Additionally, they have their staff and students continuing to wear the mandated face coverings. Many of their events are happening as planned. However, they have lost substitute teachers due to the pandemic,” Long said.
Tahlequah Fire Chief Casey Baker said Cherokee Nation is offering chemicals to combat the spread of the virus.
The annual Stair Climb event, held every year on Sept. 11, has been canceled. Baker said firefighters are planning to have an in-house memorial at Station 1 that will be livestreamed on Facebook.
Emergency Management Director Mike Underwood said on Monday that 65,053 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed statewide. There have been 54 deaths, with Cherokee County having 791 confirmed cases and seven deaths.
“The [Cherokee County Health Department] will also offer the flu vaccine beginning mid-October,” Long said. “Additional information will be provided as we get closer to the dates of service.”
Long said the annual Veterans Day Parade has also been canceled.
Ward 4 City Councilor Trae Ratliff, head of the Economic Recovery Task Force team, said it’s irrelevant at the moment whether masks are working.
“A month ago, we had 36,000 positive cases in the state of Oklahoma, and as Councilor Long just mentioned, I think she said 65,000,” Ratliff said. “Clearly, numbers continue to be on the rise, as we’re all well aware.”
As of Wednesday, Sept. 9, the state had 9,661 active COVID-19 cases, with Cherokee County reporting 196 of those. The county has had a total of 802 confirmed cases, with seven deaths, and 599 recoveries.
“The mask mandate seems to be across the board. There are more folks wearing masks more often, which clearly was our objective. We’re trying to think outside the box and think of something we can do to help downtown businesses, restaurants, and so on,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff said the Tahlequah Sports League Board had a meeting earlier that day, and they’ve had to make tough decisions regarding fall sports.
“Fall sports with the Tahlequah Sports League — we have decided we are going to postpone or cancel all of our fall sports for the flag football, fall baseball, and fall softball and T-ball through all of the kiddos. It wasn’t an easy decision for the board to make, but it was probably the right one,” Ratliff said.
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow is collecting data that will show the effectiveness of municipalities having a mask mandate versus not having one.
“That data should be released soon, and it should be some visual that should make it easier for everybody to see if this is worth the pen and paper it’s written on,” Ratliff said.
As of Sept. 9, Cherokee Nation Health Services had 1,596 confirmed cases of COVID-19.