OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the Omicron surge continues Friday in Oklahoma, some Oklahoma schools have gone virtual with doctors saying cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise.
Martin Luther King Elementary School and FD Moon Middle School, both part of Oklahoma City Public Schools, along with the entire Paoli School District, has gone virtual due to spikes in COVID cases across the state. Hospitalizations and deaths have also jumped over the past week with doctors saying they don’t expect the surge to peak until mid to late January or possibly into February.
“All the metrics are heading in the wrong direction,” said Dr. George Monks, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Sound familiar? Another year and another COVID surge in the state. Monks said cases have tripled in the past two weeks with hospitalizations up by 19 percent and deaths up by 150 percent over the last week alone. Monks cited Omicron’s infectiousness as a main driving force of the quick spread.
“We’re seeing results and fallout because of that, and we’re seeing schools either close or pivot to distance learning because the students and the teachers are sick,” Monks said.
Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a message to students’ families that teachers, instructional staff and students have been out due to illness or other circumstances. He added that other schools may have to shift in the future, and said in a message Thursday night that they expect the students to be in the virtual schooling environment for “the next several school days.” However, McDaniel called it a last resort and said they don’t plan to shift the entire district to virtual unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“We really have to have our kids wearing a mask in school to even have a chance to keep them open, but expect widespread disruptions,” Monks said.
“The seven-day rolling average is approaching the highest peak that we’ve had since the start of the pandemic,” said the University of Oklahoma’s Chief COVID Officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler.
Bratzler said hospitals are strained. There are over 1,000 COVID patients in hospitals with nearly two dozen of them being children. With health care workers also catching COVID, many of them are unable to work.
“Our hospitals are in real trouble right now,” Bratzler said.
With a 60 percent increase in childhood hospitalizations in the state and the CDC reporting a record number of COVID-19 child hospitalizations, Bratzler said he isn’t surprised about schools switching over.
“I think it may happen a bit more before we’re done with this,” Bratzler said.
Universities in the state are also set to begin classes soon, something Bratzler said is also a case for concern regarding growing cases moving forward.
“If we have substantial outbreaks there, it can be very difficult to keep things running on campus,” Bratzler said.