OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Although we all hoped the coronavirus would be of little to no concern by this Thanksgiving, that won’t be the case. Oklahoma health leaders say COVID-19 is still top of mind this holiday weekend, with a concerning rise in new cases the last two weeks.
“We all have to decide what the risk is for ourselves and our families when we’re going to get together,” said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Her concern is an uptick in new COVID cases in Oklahoma. Over the past two weeks, the rolling seven-day average of new cases has risen by 246. The average was 561 new cases on Nov. 10 and it was 807 on Nov. 24.
“We knew we were going to have a rise. That was not a question,” she said. “The difference is the increase is about two weeks earlier than we predicted. So, we’ve compounded a little bit of that increase by starting two weeks ahead and because we’ve started two weeks ahead, we have more people that have COVID that are going to be spreading it at Thanksgiving and maybe not know it.”
Clarke is encouraging folks to consider getting a COVID test before dining with others, depending on who you dine with and each individual’s vaccine status.
“If you have two or three or four people that may be at really high risk, then you might consider all the adults to get tested,” she said. “You may consider the people who have not been vaccinated to be tested.”
New data released Wednesday from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows 61 percent of Oklahomans above the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, which is quite below the 85 percent that state health leaders like Dr. Clarke were hoping for going into this holiday weekend.
The OSMA president had a particular message for those who are unvaccinated and have already caught the COVID virus.
“We still have people that have not been vaccinated and have been infected who think because they had the infection so they’re clear [and have immunity]. We know now that’s not true,” she explained. “Those people earlier in the year who had infection may feel overly confident, but they are going to be losing immunity and it’s going to be happening around the same time that we’re talking about right now. That’s part of the concern that we have. We have a lot of people that still have not been vaccinated that are overly confident, and they are going to get it and spread it again.”
OU Health Chief COVID-19 Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler also weighed in with some thoughts for Thanksgiving, noting that asymptomatic cases still abound.
“We need to be very cautious,” he said. “If your family is fully vaccinated, you know the people who are around the table with you, I think you can feel pretty comfortable in that setting. I think you can take your mask off. I think it’s the activities you do, though, that are in larger groups, particularly indoor events where you’re with groups of people you don’t know, that’s where the risk of transmission of the virus will occur.”
Dr. Clarke also noted that if one considers getting an over-the-counter COVID test before gathering with their friends and families, to be very diligent in following directions to assure accurate results.