OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Health leaders in Oklahoma continue to stress that they are seeing an uptick in new COVID-19 cases as the delta variant spreads across the Sooner State.
“Our numbers are just heading in the wrong direction,” said Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association.
At this point, officials say Oklahoma ranks 12th in the nation in the number of reported COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
Davis says that 50 percent of those new cases are from patients in the 15 to 44-year-old age group.
Dr. Brent Brown, professor with OU College of Medicine and chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, says that he has seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among younger patients.
“We have seen, like other areas that are reporting an increased number of cases. They also seem to be younger people,” Brown said.
Brown says that just in the last week, a patient in their 20s died from the virus.
According to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, patients who are between 18 and 35-years-old make up more than 31% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.
“Our experience in the people we’ve had admitted is that they are exclusively unvaccinated,” he said.
Dr. Dale Bratzler, Chief COVID Officer with the University of Oklahoma, reports that the community transmission rate is increasing in the Tulsa area.
Oklahoma health experts say that spread is likely being fueled by the delta variant, which is responsible for huge outbreaks across Arkansas and Missouri.
At the same time, Oklahoma doctors are paying close attention to another COVID-19 variant that is spreading around the globe.
World Health Organization officials have signaled “Lambda” as a variant “of interest,” and though the WHO hasn’t categorized it as a “variant of concern” yet, that could change as experts learn more.
The Delta variant still remains the dominant strain in the United States, but the Lambda, which is spreading quickly in South America after it was first identified in Peru in late 2020, has been detected in Nevada and Utah, among other U.S. states. Global science initiative GISAID counted 680 U.S. cases of the variant as of Monday.
According to the World Health Organization, 81% of the COVID-19 cases reported in Peru since April were associated with the Lambda variant.
Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, says Peru’s death toll related to COVID-19 is much higher than other developed countries.
At this point, researchers are trying to determine if the increased death toll is due to it being resistant to Peru’s vaccines, the health care system in the area, or the patients themselves.
“We might be seeing a significant problem with this in the future,” Clarke said.
In the end, Oklahoma experts say the vaccine is the best defense we have against COVID-19.
Dr. Bratzler says that if you got one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, it is imperative that you get the second dose.
He stresses that one dose is not enough to protect yourself from the delta variant, adding that one dose is only about 34% effective against the variant.
He says if you have already had COVID-19, it is still important to get the vaccine in order to protect yourself from these emerging variants.