Osage commissioners consider COVID-19 response

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had taken no action as of Aug. 1 to provide emergency authority for the state’s response to the ongoing upsurge in COVID-19 infections, but Osage County commissioners voiced concern last week about the trend.

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney said during a July 26 meeting that he had a list of new COVID-19 case numbers for Osage County during the previous week. The list showed 107 new cases, among them 17 in Pawhuska, 12 in Fairfax and 43 in Skiatook. The figures did not include Bartlesville, Tulsa or Ponca City, McKinney clarified.

The Osage County board discussed COVID-19 in connection with an agenda item that allowed the commissioners to consider enacting guidelines for persons entering the courthouse in Pawhuska and other county buildings. The commissioners took no action, but made it clear they were evaluating data.

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones commented about keeping tabs on COVID-19 infection trends in nearby counties, as well. A few people, at the county board meeting and elsewhere in the Pawhuska area July 26, could be seen beginning to wear protective face masks again. The emergence and spread of a new COVID-19 strain, called the “Delta Variant,” appears to be responsible for much of the wave of new cases – particularly among persons who have not received a full vaccination for COVID-19.

“To me it’s coming back and we really need to watch what we’re doing.” McKinney said. Just because people are vaccinated doesn’t mean they can’t be infected, he added.

Jones said elected officials who run county offices are free to take precautions as they see fit.

“Don’t wait on anybody else,” Jones said, encouraging other officials to regulate access to their operations as they see a need.

“We’ll just keep a close eye on it, and hopefully we have no more deaths and the numbers start going back down,” McKinney said. It has been three months since the COVID-19 situation in Osage County had improved enough that the county board lifted restrictions.

Commissioners voted, 3-0, on April 26 to lift public access guidelines for the Osage County courthouse and other county buildings with a view toward having normal building access restored by May 3. McKinney had been concerned then about a potential resurgence of the illness and the possible need to reimpose restrictions.

Guidelines for mask wearing and temperature checks were put in place in 2020, in response to the initial spread of COVID-19 in Osage County and throughout the nation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of July 31, reported 10,417 people in Osage County had been fully vaccinated, and 12,894 had received at least one dose of a vaccine. The current level of COVID-19 transmission in Osage County was “high,” according to the CDC.

Anyone who would like to be tested for COVID-19 or to be vaccinated against the illness can contact the Osage County Health Department at 918-287-3740.