Masks – no one likes them or wants to wear them. Many don’t want to be told they have to wear them, so the idea of a municipality approving and enforcing a mask mandate is unpopular with those against a mandate citing personal freedoms and choice.
Mayor Shelli Selby said Yukon residents need to know how much masks help and the severity in the area of numbers of those who are infected by COVID-19 and those who have been exposed.
“We have to slow the infection rate down,” Selby said. “There is so much pushback in Yukon and no way to enforce a mask mandate, so we have to educate the people more and ask private business owners to make masks mandatory in your business.”
During a COVID-19 Task Force meeting in Yukon Wednesday, Maggie Jackson, community liaison with the Canadian County Health Department, reported that Canadian County has the highest percentage of positive tests in the state. She also noted a positive that somehow the county also has the lowest fatality rate.
Jackson said, “If you wear a mask and no one else does, it is less effective, but if both people wear masks, it is the most effective.”
Jackson said those who are positive with the coronavirus may not know it because they are contagious 48 hours before ever starting to show symptoms. She indicates this can be detrimental in efforts to stop the disease’s spread.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the county is indicated by conditions at a Yukon-area hospital.
At INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital there are currently 24 positive COVID-19 cases, with four waiting in the emergency room because there are no beds available, said Teresa Gray, ICVH president.
Currently there are 11 staff out, who are positive with COVID-19 at ICVH and there are eight more staff members who have pending test results. Jackson said a vaccine is coming by Dec. 12 and ICVH employees will be part of the first phase.
“We (ICVH) are in Region 6, and in this region, there are currently no available ICU beds,” Gray said. “We are transferring patients to other facilities, some as far as Grove and neighboring states.”
Gray reports there have been 16 COVID-related deaths at ICVH, as of Wednesday. She said staffing has been challenging and caregivers are working extra shifts and caring for more patients than before. She attributes this to a shortage of nursing across the state.
Gray indicated that if the predictive modeling she has heard continues, it is projected the state will triple COVID-19 hospitalizations over the next four to six weeks.
“There is great concern for bed availability over the next several weeks,” Gray said.
“St. Anthony’s (in Oklahoma City) has set up a tent hospital next to the main campus to care for a potential influx of COVID over the next few weeks,” Gray said.
Selby said if you don’t believe COVID-19 is real, call the ICVH.
“It is very real at Canadian Valley Hospital,” she said.
Mayor Selby said the use of positive peer pressure and encouragement to wear masks for even just a few weeks could be helpful in giving the health care system a needed break.
In related reports at the COVID-19 Task Force meeting, Assistant City Attorney Tammy Kretchmar said last week the City of Yukon had 20 people out, who had either been exposed to COVID-19, or had tested positive for COVID-19. That number is down to eight who are out this week.