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Tahlequah police chief talks breakthrough case, health leaders wish for another vaccine rush

Posted at 7:32 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-26 20:32:46-04

TULSA, Okla. — Some health officials say the need to administer COVID vaccines is spreading as fast as the virus.

Monday, the state health department reported 819 new cases.

Doctors fear this is a wave that could have been prevented with more COVID vaccine shots.

Clinic staff of Morton Comprehensive Health Services are running more tests than vaccinations. For them, this is a frustrating setback.

Because of the increase in testing, Morton staff pulled a nurse from regular duties to be dedicated to only running tests.

In the last two weeks, Morton Health ran 62 positive COVID tests. Two weeks before that, they had 17 positives.

“It is indeed your right not to get vaccinated, but you owe something to your fellow citizens to protect them,” Dr. Susan Mehnert-Kay said as she described conversations with patients opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Mehnert-Kay is the chief medical officer of Morton. She says her job is like a constant COVID rollercoaster, going from one crisis to the next. The latest one includes convincing patients to get vaccinated.

“I get a lot of ‘Well, it’s not 100% effective,’ Dr. Mehnert-Kay said. “Well, neither is a seatbelt but I put it on every time I get in my car.”

As of Thursday, Tulsa County is 55.6% fully vaccinated in residents aged 18 and up. The state of Oklahoma is roughly 40% fully vaccinated. While those numbers seem promising, some doctors credit the current case spike to those not taking a chance at the shot.

“We also had our first positive COVID test within the police department in quite some time last week,” said Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King.

He made the announcement during his Monday morning live Facebook stream. One of King’s vaccinated supervisors tested positive and is in quarantine.

“We’re seeing more and more… COVID coming back, more positive tests. Just asking you on the front end to be more careful,” King said.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing infections., severe covid illness, and reduce spread.

“It’s discouraging because this feels like, at this point, it’s a preventable disease, and +60% of the people that can get vaccinated have opted not to,” said Dr. Mehnert-Kay.

Morton Health centers are taking walk-ins or appointments for coronavirus testing and vaccinations.

The Tulsa Health Department is running its vaccine clinics by appointment only.

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