GROVE — The Grove City Council will mandate masks on city property beginning on Monday, Oct. 12.

This mandate includes events at the Grove Civic Center. The mandate will not apply to children under 10 years of age. The mandate will apply during so-called Red and Orange alerts.

The council took the action at its Tuesday meeting after three doctors told the council that there is an “immediate problem today in Grove.” A discussion to require masks in the city limits was not brought to a vote after it was clear the council members did not favor a citywide mandate.

Doctors Sam Ratermann, Kyle Shauf and Zach Bechtol told the council that the there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in Grove including 10 new nursing home patients and that the hospital ICU is near to capacity.

For the past week, the Harvard Global Health Institute has placed Delaware County in the “Red Zone” with a seven-day average of 39.8 cases per 100,000 population. The alert system ranges from green (containment) to yellow (community spread) to orange (accelerated spread) to the highest level red (Tipping Point). The Red Level is reached when there are 25 cases per 100,000 population. Delaware County has more than exceeded that level for the past week which means there is a high danger of community spread.

Dr. Ratterman said that once a person is hospitalized, the patient’s regular doctor can no longer treat them. He is the physician who is responsible for treating patients at Integris in Grove. He noted that some of the patients have been so sick that they needed to be transferred to other hospitals with higher levels of care. “We end up calling six or seven hospitals to find one that can accept our patients because our area including Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas are full as well.”

He noted that while there may be beds available in Oklahoma, there are not enough staff members to use them. He noted that the state initially had a “dashboard” of available beds, but funding has ended and now they must make phone calls to find available beds.

“Because 33 percent of our population is in the high-risk category of being over 65 years of age, we are urging you to take action. People aren’t wearing masks.” When asked if he supported a citywide mask ordinance, Raterman said, “Anything we can do. We are going the wrong way.”

The council did agree to adopt the Harvard Alert system rather then the one used by Oklahoma because it more accurately reflects the current status of Delaware County. However, instead of using the Harvard threshold for the orange alert of 10 cases per thousand, they will continue to use the Oklahoma state measurement of 14.39 cases to issue an orange alert.

Dr. Bechtol said that he has had COVID patients in the last week ranging in age from 92 to 55 years of age. “Most have recovered while one was extremely ill and in ICU but is now improving.”

Grove city manager Bill Keefer noted that “several city employees have tested positive during the past couple of weeks.” He pointed out that city services could be in danger if the eight employees at the water plant all came down with COVID and the same is true for the fire and police departments.

Dr. Shauf pointed out that not all masks are the same. He noted that face shields and neck gaiters are not as effective as cloth masks.