Rural Parts Of Oklahoma Have Fewer Resources To Manage COVID-19

Friday, January 1st 2021, 9:33 pm

TULSA, Okla. -

State and county leaders are predicting another spike in COVID-19 cases after the holidays. People who live in rural counties could be hit just as hard as bigger cities, officials said.

Cities like Tulsa may see more positive cases, but there are also more resources in an urban area to tend to the cases.

Rural counties have far fewer resources at their disposal, putting them at a disadvantage if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"Ultimately, the fears that we had back in March are now hitting in December," Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge said.  

Loge is a member of the state’s only city-county COVID task force. Loge predicts a spike in COVID-19 cases after the holiday season. He is worried about the county's limited number of ICU beds and personal protective equipment.

“We were transporting to Fort Smith, Arkansas to find that bed. That's tough,” Loge said. “What's tough on the family, that's tough on people to comprehend. 'I cannot go to my hospital five miles down the road. I have to go an hour away just to get medical treatment.'" 

The state’s health department numbers show trends for smaller counties' cases and deaths now are now similar to big cities like Tulsa. For Muskogee and Haskell, their COVID-19 numbers spiked in September and have continued to increase. 

Haskell County Sheriff Tim Turner explains his county has been impacted heavily by exposures and quarantines.

"You might end up with five or six people quarantining off of one person," Turner said. "That's huge when you live in a county like ours when we're 13,000 or 14,000 people and I think, at one point, 26 percent of our population had the virus. So that 26 percent is a huge number of people."

Loge said the vaccine could provide some relief going into the new year. 

"Mentally, we're in a different stage,” Loge said. “There's light at the end of the tunnel and we just have to survive this last aspect of the state of COVID.”

Both Loge and Turner said their counties have been doing a good job wearing masks and following safety procedures. They urge people to continue doing their part.