As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has indicated 13 hospitals are at capacity for beds in their intensive care units - and Northeastern Health System in Tahlequah is reportedly among them.
On Thursday, Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron said she was aware that NHS was included on a chart titled, "Oklahoma ICU Availability Below 10 Percent." That chart, which was circulating Thursday, indicated NHS was at 100 percent occupancy as of July 7.
However, NHS CEO Brian Woodliff apparently disputes those figures.
"I reached out to Brian Woodliff for confirmation. In his response, he indicates that there are five open ICU spaces today," Catron said.
As of July 9, Cherokee County was reporting 105 total cases of COVID-19, with 84 recoveries. Seventy-two cases are from Tahlequah. Cherokee Nation Health Services was reporting 265 confirmed cases, although those could come from anywhere in the 14-county jurisdiction, and the patients aren't necessarily Cherokee.
Tahlequah's Crisis Task Force is still meeting twice a month, and city officials are encouraging people to wear masks in public. No mandate has been issued, although other cities have done so.
"The message is pretty simple: wear your mask. I think that alone seems to be the difference between us as a community fighting this thing effectively or not," said Ward 4 Councilor Trae Ratliff. "I'll say it again: Wear your masks. If we can continue to get that into the community, then hopefully we don't have to go down the road of closures or ordinances. If we can keep those numbers low by people wearing their masks -- it's a simple and easy measure on everybody's part and responsibility to do so."
Mayor Sue Catron echoed Ratliff by saying she didn't want to revert back to processes that may limit local businesses.
"We're going to have to wear our masks and keep our numbers low; it's important," Catron said.