The Claremore City Council has scheduled a special meeting that will include public comments to consider an ordinance for face coverings as COVID-19 cases surge in Rogers County.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, but public comments are due by noon, according to an agenda posted on the city's website. The meeting will be held at the Claremore Community Center, 2301 N. Sioux Ave., and also will be streamed live on the city's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ClaremoreCity/).
The public can make comments by email to email@example.com or by phone at 918-283-8207. The public comments must include the sender's name to be read or played at the meeting. Comments will be limited to three minutes, according to the agenda.
The city issued a resolution in July that encouraged but didn't require the use of masks. The resolution pledged "support to those property owners and businesses who require the use of masks in the city of Claremore."
COVID-19 cases have risen significantly across the state this month, and two weeks ago Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum held a conference call with city leaders in the Tulsa metro area, urging them to issue mask ordinances. Bynum and Tulsa health officials have expressed concern that the city's hospital capacity is reaching a critical status. Bynum also has expressed frustration that Tulsa was the only city in the metro area with a mask mandate.
Since the conference call, multiple cities in the metro area -- including Jenks, Sapulpa and Glenpool -- have issued mask ordinances that came on divided city council votes.
Other cities have not elected to issue a mandate. Owasso's City Council unanimously issued a resolution Tuesday similar to the one Claremore currently has in place, encouraging residents to wear masks in public and practice social distancing, according to the Owasso Reporter.
The week after the conference call led by Tulsa's mayor, Claremore interim City Manager John Feary said the city was considering how to proceed and awaiting information.
"We want to make sure that we're helping to keep our region safe," Feary said. "So, we are waiting on data from our hospitals in Tulsa, to say, 'Look, quantify to us the number of cases that are being transferred that are stressing your system.'"
Rogers County's active COVID-19 cases have reached an all-time high. Through Nov. 16, the county had 669 active cases, according to state data. On Nov. 1, there were 86. There have been 32 hospitalizations and three deaths in the county since Nov. 1, according to the state.
The two hospitals in Claremore have reported similar circumstances related to bed space.
Hillcrest Claremore has been averaging 1-3 intensive care unit patients per day in the last several weeks due to COVID-19, CEO David Chaussard said.
The hospital has six ICU beds available and this "has had an impact on ICU capacity," Chaussard said.
Claremore Indian Hospital, which treats patients with proof of Native American ancestry, said bed space has fluctuated but has averaged about 50% occupancy on general medical/surgical beds. At times, however, the hospital has been near capacity, a spokesperson said in an email. The hospital, which is operated by the federal government's Indian Health Service, also has faced a challenge with some patients.
"Like many rural hospitals, Claremore Indian Hospital transfers patients in need of higher levels of care," said the spokesperson. "As a result of the recent spike in cases, Claremore Indian Hospital has had increasing difficulties in finding facilities with hospital capacity for higher levels of care. This has on occasion resulted in patient admission while a facility with advanced level of care and hospital capacity can be identified."