As COVID-19 hospitalizations climb, Oklahoma hospitals prepare for the worst

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Registered Nurse Monica Quintana dons protective gear before entering a room at the William Beaumont hospital, April 21, 2021 in Royal Oak, Mich. Beaumont Health warned that its hospitals and staff had hit critical capacity levels. Michigan has become the current national hotspot for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations at a time when more than half the U.S. adult population has been vaccinated and other states have seen the virus diminish substantially. Beaumont Health warned that its hospitals and staff had hit critical capacity levels. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Registered Nurse Monica Quintana dons protective gear before entering a room at the William Beaumont hospital, April 21, 2021 in Royal Oak, Mich. Beaumont Health warned that its hospitals and staff had hit critical capacity levels. Michigan has become the current national hotspot for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations at a time when more than half the U.S. adult population has been vaccinated and other states have seen the virus diminish substantially. Beaumont Health warned that its hospitals and staff had hit critical capacity levels. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As Oklahoma physicians stress the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, a local hospital says it is preparing for the worst.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans who live in high COVID-19 transmission areas should mask up while indoors, regardless if they’ve been vaccinated or not.

“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.

According to the CDC’s website, nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties are in areas of high transmission, including most of Oklahoma.

“The Delta variant is highly contagious. A thousand to 1,200 times more virus in your respiratory track than with the original virus, so it spreads from person to person very easily,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler. “If we slow the transmission of the virus, there’ll be fewer mutations that result in these new variants.”

Oklahoma medical experts say they are encouraging Oklahomans to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines on masking.

Already, hospitals across Oklahoma are experiencing dramatic increases in the number of patients they are treating.

As a result, a hospital in Stillwater already had to divert patients to other hospitals due to a lack of beds.

“We’re all sitting here biting our nails to an extent,” Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said.

Dr. Clarke warns that if something doesn’t give, Oklahoma could see all its hospitals on divert status.

“It won’t take four months. It will happen before we know it because of the transmissibility of delta,” she said.

Officials at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City are echoing that statement.

On Tuesday, the hospital posted that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking in Oklahoma.

“For weeks, we’ve watched COVID-19 cases skyrocket and overwhelm our fellow Mercy teams across Missouri and Arkansas. Today, we’re sad to report a similar spike in Oklahoma City. We’ve gone from single digits in the past few months to now 30 patients, and projections tell us to brace for the worst yet again,” the hospital posted.

The hospital also posted a recording of 23-year-old Erin Baker, a nurse at Mercy Hospital in Springfield.

Although Baker is not normally assigned to the intensive care unit, she says most of the nurses are being trained in caring for patients on ventilators because of the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

“I work on 6B which is now turning into an ICU unit. We’re training our nurses now to go train in the ICU and learn how to take care of ventilator patients since the ICUs are filling up and can no longer support how high the needs are,” she said.

Baker says many of the patients they are treating are suddenly needing to be intubated, and there are a lot of patients who are going on ‘comfort care.’

She says she has taken care of patients this week who are 23-years-old, just like her.

“It doesn’t matter the age. It’s a life lost that didn’t deserve to die,” she said, holding back tears. “It’s hard.”

On Wednesday, Oklahoma recorded 1,474 new COVID-19 cases across the state.

Officials say there were 639 Oklahomans hospitalized with COVID-19 on average over the past three days, including more than 200 patients in the intensive care unit.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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