A little more than a week after Greer County had no reported cases of COVID-19, the county has exploded to at least 31 cases and at least three deaths while a local mortuary reported a fourth death that might not yet be in the statistics. And those numbers will likely increase by the time you read this.
That’s partly because the health departments in southwest Oklahoma have begun a more extensive testing program for those people suspected of having the coronavirus. If you have the symptoms, you can call your local county health department and schedule a curb-side test but you must meet the criteria for the test because there are limited tests available.
But it could also be that residents in Greer County had not followed self-distancing of at least six feet and gatherings of not more than 10 people, as had been suggested by Gov. Kevin Stitt weeks ago.
At least one death may be attributed to a minister from Tulsa who came to Mangum, not knowing he had COVID-19, and exposing a congregation to the virus during a special service about March 15. The minister died of COVID-19 after he returned to Tulsa on March 20. One woman who died was reportedly 95 and in poor health and a member of the church where he preached in Mangum.
Another two cases were attributed to a local long-term care center in Mangum.
Likewise, Jackson County’s number of cases tripled from two to six in the last week but with no deaths as of Tuesday. The Jackson County Health Department offered a drive thru test for COVID-19 in Altus on April 1 and tested 61 patients which may have contributed to the change in numbers.
Meanwhile, Mangum Mayor Mary Jane Scott proclaimed a series of emergency orders that follow many of what Altus Mayor Jack Smiley had already implemented beginning as early as March 16. Scott implemented her first emergency orders on Tuesday, March 31, after the deaths were noted.
Both mayors have ordered non-essential businesses closed, public facilities such as gyms, fitness courts and playgrounds closed and ordered all citizens to shelter in place. They also closed bars and restaurants but allowed restaurants to provide take-out and delivery services.
Scott said the Mangum Police Department suggested adopting a curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., effective last Tuesday, after Smiley issued a similar emergency order the same day.
Smiley added an emergency order on Tuesday that requires residents to wear a mask if they get within 6 feet of another person and anytime they are outside. Scott added a similar requirement for Mangum on Tuesday. Both pointed out the masks, especially homemade versions, do not keep people from getting the virus but help those with the virus from spreading it to others.
Scott said the emergency orders were issued to try to stop the explosive growth of the virus in the community.
As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the state had 1,472 positive tests and 67 deaths — 52 of which were from people at least 65 years old — as a result of COVID-19.
Martha Road Baptist Church has decided to cancel a drive-in Easter Service scheduled for Sunday due to the growing crisis.
The Altus City Council was expected to vote on whether to extend the emergency order to the end of April during its April 7 meeting. That meeting was at 6 p.m. after The Altus Times and the Mangum Star went to press. Copies of the emergency orders from Scott and Smiley will be attached to this story on the Altus Times website and free to the public to read.