Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said it was a road trip that took a turn for the worst, but she's just glad her experience with the virus is now in the rear-view mirror.
Keith returned to the office for the first time Tuesday after she and her husband got COVID-19 while on vacation. Keith said she thinks they were exposed while making a pit stop where no one was wearing a mask. Just 3 days after, her husband Pat was experiencing shortness of breath, what they originally thought was altitude sickness. Only, she started experiencing symptoms in the following days.
“I'm sure there were some people who were like, 'She's talking about wearing a masks and blah blah blah and here she gets it.' But the thing is, as you can tell, highly contagious," Keith said.
Keith acknowledges masks aren't 100% effective, but she said they definitely help. This is something she'd believed before her trip but feels as though it was confirmed in Colorado.
"In Durango, after wearing masks since May 21st they've had only 126 cases and then you just went south and there had been over 2000,” said Keith. “[…] It's kind of just a testament to how it works."
She and her husband Pat experienced a different spectrum of symptoms. For her, it was a loss of appetite and smell. Pat suffered from congestion. However, they both experienced fatigue.
"That's the most frustrating thing is kind of waking up in the morning and thinking 'I'm fine,' and two hours later you hit a wall and you have to go lie down," Keith said.
Keith said she not only came back from her vacation with COVID-19, but new ideas for helping the county slow the spread. She said they may need to reopen the old juvenile center for the homeless population to safely distance, as they did earlier this year. Keith is also encouraging people to talk with their doctors about ways to build their immune systems and raising awareness for plasma donations.
"It's really important for anybody who has had COVID-19 to take advantage of this window and give your blood, because you have the antibodies to help the folks who are in the ICU," Keith said.
As of now, she said they aren’t planning on implementing a mass mask mandate at the county level. Keith said it would really only impact the unincorporated areas, because they can't tell suburbs what to do. Even so, Keith said she’ll continue to encourage other cities to take after Tulsa and enforce the mask policy. At the end of the day, she said, it's not about policing, but protecting the public.
"It's for our population. Like my mother is 92, and the idea of mom getting this scares me to death,” said Keith. “The vulnerable people in our population, that's who I think we really need to be concerned about."
Keith said she is so grateful to all of her coworkers who helped her while she was working remotely, and to the public for their kindness and support during these past couple of weeks.