OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With the 4th of July holiday weekend fast approaching, there’s concern among Oklahoma’s medical professionals that the COVID-19 case count could skyrocket.
The holiday is an even bigger deal this year, especially since most events were shut down in 2020. Doctors are still urging caution, as a dangerous new variant spreads.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Wednesday that infections rose by 36 percent in the last week alone.
Doctors believe the Delta variant of the virus is driving the summer spike and say those who are both unvaccinated and plan to celebrate this weekend are taking a risk.
“If you’re going to be around a lot of people, a huge crowd, and you’re not vaccinated, then you probably should reconsider being around a lot of people that you’re not quite sure if someone has that variant,” said Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. “The problem with the Delta variant is that it is much more infectious.”
OU Health’s Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler added that the Delta variant thrives even more indoors.
“If you’re in tight quarters around a lot of people, there is a risk of transmission of the virus,” he said. “So, if you’re not vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to wear a mask if you’re in that setting.”
Clarke points to hospital trends to knock the point home.
“The hospitalizations right now for COVID-related illnesses is almost exclusively in unvaccinated patients across the state,” she said. “If you are unvaccinated and go around crowds for the holiday, you are going to be at a higher risk. You are at a higher risk because we don’t know who has the variant.”
For Oklahomans who are vaccinated, he said the coast is pretty clear.
“I think a lot of activities that people have typically done on independence day, the 4th of July, they can do safely.”
The professional recommendation at this point is to only celebrate the holiday in a way where you can space out.
“My family has always done stuff like small fireworks displays in the backyard out in the country or have done family meals, barbeques and things like that, and those things are very safe,” said Bratzler. “It’s only when you get those big crowds, particularly in close spaces, that’s when there’s a risk of transmission of the virus.”
Bratzler said the Delta variant is 50 to 60 percent more contagious than the original COVID virus.