Tulsa Health Department Encourages Protesters to Wear Masks, Try to Social Distance

Some health experts are concerned there could be an increase in COVID-19 cases with all the protests going on across the country right now.

The Tulsa Health Department said while it 100% supports everyone’s right to gather for a peaceful protest, it does still encourage Tulsans to wear a mask, and try to keep their distance, even in crowded situations. As hundreds gathered at the Greenwood Cultural Center for a peaceful protest to make their voices heard on Sunday, it was a stark contrast to the past few weeks for many, who had been hunkered down at home.

"I didn't really realize how big Sunday's event would actually be,” Black Lives Matter rally organizer Tykebrean Cheshier said.

She said COVID-19 wasn't the first thing on everyone's mind.

"I feel like people kinda forgot COVID was a thing when this all started, which is sad because it's still a big issue that we're facing, but they said racism was a little bit more important at this time, and we went for it,” Cheshier said.

She said along with food and water, people were passing out masks to help encourage everyone's safety.

"A lot of public health experts around the country are worried, that there could be potentially some outbreaks of COVID-19 that are related to the protests that are ongoing,” Dr. Dale Bratzler said.

Dr. Bratzler with the OU Health Sciences Center said the most important thing someone can do to keep themselves and others safe, is wearing a mask.

“The purpose of wearing a mask principally is to protect people around you,” he said. “But there’s some growing evidence that even if you’re wearing a mask, it may reduce some of the droplets that you might inhale into your mouth.” While it may seem impossible to socially distance while protesting, health experts encourage people to make every effort.

"We know that transmission of many respiratory viruses tends to be less common in outdoor settings, so if it's a breezy Oklahoma day, that's actually helpful. But some of that protection goes away the closer, the more packed you are,” Dr. Bratzler said.

"Wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol and practice social distancing as much as possible,” Leanne Stephens with the Tulsa Health Department said.

The Tulsa Health Department will be offering to drive through testing this Friday from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. at the Greater Union Baptist Church. No appointment is necessary.