COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma long-term care facilities on the rise

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Community spread of COVID-19 continues to rage on in Oklahoma as the concern for long-term care facilities grows. 

“I mean, we’ve been at this heightened level of vigilance since March,” said Steven Buck, President and CEO of Care Providers Oklahoma

Last week, the state reached a grim milestone. 

The state epidemiology report shows 520 deaths in Oklahoma facilities with all but four of them being residents of the centers. 

“Community spread is a significant, significant factor in the health and well-being of the residents,” said Buck. 

Nationally, the American Health Care Association says since mid-September, the Midwest region of the country saw a 120% increase in weekly COVID-19 cases in nursing homes.

A lot of those numbers are based on community spread, which is just one way the virus makes its way into these homes. 

“Our employees don’t live in the building. They live in the community. They shop in the community, and it is through external contact that the virus comes into a building,” said Buck. 

However, it’s not all bad news. 

“Early in the pandemic, we identified that at one point up to 54% of the deaths occurring in the state occurred in long-term care. That number is down to about 37% of all deaths that occurred,” said Buck. 

John Fenn’s son, Chris, lives in one of our state’s group homes. 

Fenn says even though cases are climbing, he isn’t worried because he has seen the protocols in Chris’ facility. 

“I think at first everyone was scared, and they did not have a good handle on what it was and how it was transmitted and now they have a little better idea,” said Fenn. 

Just months ago, Fenn was barely allowed to see his son.

Chris, now 41, has the mind of a 4-year-old. 

“People like my son, in a wheelchair and more limited, he’s mentally about 4-years-old, even though physically he’s 41, but for him, he’s just bored stiff,” said Fenn. 

He says even with the spread, in-person visitation is vital. 

“I will fight it tooth and nail if they try to make some sort of a mandate where they shut it down completely. I think we know more now, and I think the precautions are in place and they are good,” said Fenn. 

Although a vaccine seems close, diligence is key. 

“That will not necessarily mean a finish line. There will be people who choose not to take a vaccination and there will continue to be presentation of the virus in the community,” said Buck. 

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