Oklahoma hospitals down to 33 ICU beds as COVID-19 surge continues


FILE – In this April 20, 2020, file photo, resident physician Leslie Bottrell stands outside a room at an Intensive Care Unit as a nurse suctions the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. A U.S. government report says death rates are 12 times higher for coronavirus patients with chronic illnesses than for others who become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Monday, June 15 highlights the dangers posed by these conditions. They include heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung ailments, such as asthma or emphysema. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There are only 33 ICU beds available in hospitals across Oklahoma as the state’s COVID-19 surge worsens.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Executive Report for Dec. 4 states that of the 1,007 ICU beds in hospitals across the state, only 33 (3 percent) are available.

The report states that Oklahoma hospitals currently have 1,636 COVID-19 patients, 467 of which are in ICU, and 85 patients under investigation for coronavirus, five of which are in ICU.

Photo goes with story
Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health

Some medical officials are taking extra measures to ensure there is available room for patients.

The Oklahoma City Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team helped the Oklahoma City-County Health Department on Monday by assembling portable shelters for the possibility of overflowing COVID-19 patients.

OSDH reported 4,827 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, a 2.4 percent increase, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March to 208,875.

Officials said that the massive new number was the result of a backlog within the PHIDDO reporting system. Those officials say case levels should have been around 3,000 per day for Dec. 2 through Dec. 4.

But the numbers of new COVID-19 cases reported each day over the past month are drastically higher than the numbers of new cases reported throughout October.

The highest number of new COVID-19 cases reported in October was 1,829, which was reported on Oct. 24.

New COVID-19 case numbers saw a massive increase in November, including 4,507 new cases reported on Nov. 7. Since that day, new cases have fluctuated between the low two thousands to the high three thousands.

OSDH reported 6,257 new COVID-19 cases on Nov. 28, which accounts for a two day span of new cases.

(Nexstar DC photo)

There have been 1,860 COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma since March, 24 of which were reported on Friday.

There are currently 29,451 active cases in the state, according to OSDH.

Medical professionals in Oklahoma are alarmed by the skyrocketing figures, and on Tuesday held a new conference urging Oklahomans to take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We absolutely need the public to take this very seriously,” said Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

Nurses are also raising red flags about the pandemic’s impact on hospitals and hospital staff.

The Oklahoma Nurses Association said this week that there was a nursing shortage in Oklahoma for years, and that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on those nurses.

“Our nurses and clinical staff continue to overcome these challenges every day; they’re extremely resilient people, but in many cases they also become exhausted,” Karyl James, chief nursing officer at Mercy Hospital, said. “They’ve been working around the clock for eight months with no real end in sight.”

The Nurses Association met with OSDH officials as well as members of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office on Thursday.

The organization asked that a marketing campaign be launched to bring nurses out of retirement, or to get nurses who have expired licenses back on the job.

They also asked for a face mask mandate in counties that have a certain number of new COVID cases per 100,000 people.

Stitt’s office issued the following statement regarding the meeting:

“The governor’s team had a productive meeting yesterday with the Oklahoma Nurses Association, and we are grateful for everything nurses are doing to care for Oklahomans. Nurses are incredibly valuable to our state and its healthcare system, and we are committed to working together on a plan to recruit more nurses to serve in Oklahoma and to find ways to continue to support them as we protect the health and lives of Oklahomans.”


Stitt has resisted issuing a statewide face mask mandate despite several leading medical officials in the state calling for him to enact such a mandate to slow COVID’s surge and minimize the numbers of deaths caused by the virus.

“We can continue to go along and just keep waiting and hoping that we get a vaccine out, or we can do more aggressive things to slow the spread of the disease and to save people’s lives,” Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s Chief COVID Officer, said during a previous interview with KFOR.

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