Kathy Reed prepares food for pickup at Bristow Social Services in Bristow, Okla. (Nick Oxford/for The Washington Post)

Epidemiologist Mark Brandenburg saw the threat months ago: The data coming out of China signaled that this could be "the pandemic we had feared for a long time."

The chief medical officer of a small hospital in this town of 4,200 people, Brandenburg didn't wait for orders from the federal government or direction from the statehouse. By mid-February, he had launched a citizens' response team to prepare the community for the novel coronavirus's arrival. Local leaders organized a phone chain. Teams of teenagers and college students were formed to deliver groceries to seniors.


Patricia Flood, who has COPD and other health issues, peeks out of her front door in Bristow. (Nick Oxford/for The Washington Post)

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announce March 6 that Tulsa County has its first coronavirus case. A Tulsa man in his 50s who recently traveled to Italy was the first Oklahoma resident to test positive, Stitt said. (Stephen Pingry/AP)

A restaurant in Bristow remains open on Tuesday despite the coronavirus pandemic. (Nick Oxford/for The Washington Post)

Main Street is seen in Bristow on Tuesday. (Nick Oxford/for The Washington Post)

Carla Fullbright, a dialysis nurse with four children, sits outside of her home in Bristow. (Nick Oxford/for The Washington Post)

Eilperin reported from Washington. Julie Tate contributed to this report.