County, Osages attempt to counter virus

Robert Smith

With the number of positive tests for COVID-19 mushrooming in Oklahoma and growing significantly in Osage County, local officials find themselves trying to be firm about the need to attempt to prevent the spread of the illness.

District 3 Osage County Commissioner Darren McKinney told his colleages and other officials attending the weekly county board meeting Monday that he struggles to get employees at his Fairfax road shop to understand they need to stop coming to work if they know that they might have been exposed to COVID-19.

“It’s hitting the Fairfax shop pretty good,” McKinney said, commenting that his road supervisor was away from work because of concerns that he might have been exposed to the illness through a relative. McKinney said he sent another employee home Monday, even though the person had no symptoms, because of the possibility of exposure.

As of Monday, the Fairfax community had 19 positive tests, and 14 people had recovered. There had been no COVID-19 deaths in that town.

In Osage County, the number of positive COVID-19 tests grew from 102 on June 8 to 160 on June 29, and then in the past month it has doubled. As of Monday, the situation report issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Health showed Osage County with 325 positive tests for COVID-19. Of those, 266 had recovered and 10 had died. The rest were active cases.

The county’s death toll from the novel coronavirus is now 10, having grown by two since mid-July. From mid-April to mid-July there were no COVID-19 deaths attributed to Osage County, but that streak has ended.

Statewide, the number of positive tests as of June 8 was 7,205. There had been 348 deaths at that juncture. As of Monday, there had been 32,686 positive tests for COVID-19 statewide, and 496 deaths. There were 625 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state as of July 24.

In Osage County, the overall numbers of positive tests attributed to the larger communities have been growing. As of Monday, Hominy had 41 positive tests and one death; Pawhuska had 22 positive tests and no deaths; Barnsdall had 19 positive tests and two deaths. But the smaller communities were starting to reflect the spread of the illness — 6 positives in Osage; 4 in Burbank; 2 in Wynona.

Geoffrey Standing Bear, principal chief of the Osage Nation, also articulated a concern about ongoing awareness of the presence of COVID-19 in Osage County, and a need to monitor and prevent its spread.

Standing Bear told the Journal-Capital last Friday that the Osage Nation had tested all employees for COVID-19 three times, beginning in March, and it is now going to a regimen of testing all employees every 30 days. He said the Osage Nation has implemented this month a mandatory face mask policy for anyone entering its government buildings who will likely be unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

“We’re going to have to keep doing it until it goes away,” Standing Bear said in regard to testing employees every 30 days. He clarified that he’s not trying to be negative, to be a “doomsday guy,” but the virus is still on the move.