Task force officials informed the public during a Feb. 18 Tahlequah City Council meeting that COVID-19 numbers are trending downward.

Ward 1 Tahlequah City Councilor Bree Long said the Crisis Task Force was informed of the capacity status at both hospitals.

"I spoke with Cherokee Nation and they have stated that W.W. Hastings Hospital has adequate inpatient capacity and PPE stocks," said Long. "The number of COVID-19 admissions has decreased from surge capacity."

Additionally, Long stated cases continue to decrease across the state and the U.S.

"They are continuing contact tracing and case investigations to isolate cases to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The major focus is on vaccination efforts to help protect our communities and to decrease the risk of spreading," said Long.

Health officials are urging the public to continue mitigation procedures such as face coverings and social distancing.

"I spoke with Northeastern Health Systems as well and they reiterated some of the same sentiments that NHS is trending down on their positive patients. They have ample capacity and resources at their facilities.

"They've tested over 9,100 patients and of those, 1,150 have been positive," said Long.

As of Thursday, Feb. 18, vaccinations have been focused toward those who are 65 years of age and older. Phase 2 should be focused on teachers and school staff.

"There are 524 teachers in Cherokee County who have stated they would take the vaccine," said Long.

"The planning distribution will be immediate once it is authorized."

Ward 4 City Councilor Trae Ratliff, head of the Economic Recovery Task Force team, said active cases of COVID-19 has decreased by 258 since December.

"That shows the trend and our hopes are that this cold weather is keeping everybody at the house for this extra week - is really going to compound the decrease and the decline that we have in numbers in the coming weeks," said Ratliff.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has administered 447,323 vaccines where Cherokee Nation is nearing 20,000 administered vaccines.

"There are more avenues to get vaccinated [are] coming. It sounds like Mayor Sue Catron mentioned this morning in the meeting that Walmart is now scheduling vaccine appointments," said Ratliff.

The board gave its nod to a memorandum of agreement between the city, Tahlequah Public Works Authority, Lake Region Technology and Communications, and Cherokee Nation for fiber expansion efforts.

"The agreement is... to work on a project to improve the internet access within the city of Tahlequah," said Catron. "The details as far as the financial piece of it works out will be a separate agreement."

CN Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the access to affordable and reliable broadband is more essential than ever.

"This investment, along with this team of proven partners, will bring thousands of Cherokee Nation citizens quality connectivity so they can easily telework, do distance learning, access telemedicine and perform day-to-day activities virtually," said Hoskin.

"We see this as the first of many partnerships to expand broadband access throughout the reservation. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the need to bridge the digital divide, especially for our citizens living in the most rural areas."

CN partnered with AT&T to deliver mobile hotspots to Cherokee households that were lacking internet in order for children and elders to stay connected. CN received a grant from the Department of the Interior to conduct a study of broadband feasibility that focused on areas around CN community centers.

"This is among my greatest priorities, and that's where we continue to put our focus. We are proud to join the city of Tahlequah, TPWA and Lake Region Electric Cooperative on this effort," said Hoskin.

What's next

The next Tahlequah City Council meeting is Monday, March 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

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