Councilors during an Aug. 30 special Tahlequah City Council meeting approved a resolution pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Sue Catron said they found themselves in a situation of questions and confusion when everyone had first learned about the virus.
“In the ensuing 17 months, much has been learned about steps that can be taken to control the spread of the virus,” said Catron. “An affective vaccine has been developed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We now have tools in hand to be able to better protect ourselves, and in the process, allow life to return to normal.”
However, Catron said not enough people have joined in the fight and local hospitals are overflowing with patients as a result.
“Most of those who have been admitted have not been vaccinated. Our health professionals are stretched to a breaking point with no end to the surging site,” she said.
Ward 4 Councilor Trae Ratliff read from the resolution aloud during Monday’s meeting.
The two health care systems, Northeastern Health System and Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital, are providing primary health care to an extended, multi-county patient base.
The CDC has reported that the level of community transmission for Cherokee County is at the highest level, the “red zone.” The CDC has also recommended the resumption of mask-wearing indoors, even for the vaccinated.
Section one of the resolution stated that city officials recognize the ongoing physical and emotional toll of the pandemic upon health care professionals and their supporters.
“We wish to commend these individuals for their bravery, their perseverance, and their commitment to our community,” the resolution said.
Catron and the City Council strongly encourage residents and visitors to follow the CDC guidelines; recommendation to wear masks in public indoor settings, even if vaccinated.
“The city reminds residents and visitors that all individuals, businesses and organizations are free to implement safety protocols, including requiring mask wearing, limiting occupancy, or implementing distancing standards as deemed necessary to protect their safety, and asks that all residents respect all such requirements,” the resolution said.
Catron and the City Council is encouraging that all Tahlequah residents who are 12 years old and older to get vaccinated, and to address their concerns about vaccines with a trusted health profession.
“It is also encouraged that children over the age of two and under the age of 12 be vaccinated as soon as the Federal Drug Administration approves and makes such vaccinations available,” the resolution said.
Due to the continuing pandemic, an emergency was declared to “exist for the preservation of public peace, health, and safety.” The resolution took effect immediately after it was approved.
Ratliff said the metrics of the virus have changed over the last year and half, and people used to be concerned with the number of positive cases.
“Then nobody cared about that number anymore and that care about how many active positive cases,” said Ratliff. “That faded away and then everybody wanted to know how many people have passed away, or how many hospitalizations.”
Ratliff said the profound number that he keeps seeing online is the difference between the hospitalizations and what percentage of those are vaccinated, compared to the ones who are unvaccinated.
“Regardless of all the propaganda and regardless of all of the stuff you see online, in my mind – nationally, globally – one thing that I don’t see changing is the difference between how many people who are hospitalized and how many people that are hospitalized and that are vaccinated,” he said.
Ratliff said it all comes down to one’s circle of influence when it comes to encouraging others to get vaccinated.
“I think it comes down to that circle of influence of people that are actually going to listen to you and I think it’s a way of respectfully showing that you care about them,” he said. “I think it also shows that if you want to be around my family, if you want to spend time with my kids, if you want to spend time, grandmas and grandpas especially.”
Ward 3 Stephen Highers commended the mayor for her praise of local health care professionals.
“I cannot say how proud I am to live in a community that has two hospitals that are just providing excellent care to our residents, to surrounding residents, to people in our county, and counties surrounding us,” said Highers.
The councilor said a way of thanking those health care professions and showing them respect is to follow CDC guidelines, masking up, and getting vaccinated.
To view the Tahlequah City Council meeting, watch it on the City of Tahlequah YouTube page.
The next Tahlequah City Council regular meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. Meetings can be viewed on the City of Tahlequah YouTube page.