Dr. Bratzler: ICU beds filling up because of COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As many parents and students fight for the right to get back to in-person learning, health experts are warning that the virus is still spreading in the Sooner State.

Stillwater Medical Center revealed that a surge plan is in place at their hospital the same day a group of parents filed an injunction against the school district for in-person classes.

“We are at capacity,” Stillwater Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. Cara Pence said. “Part of the problem is space and another part is staffing.”

Stillwater Medical Center tells KFOR its staff is struggling with overflow after hitting their ICU limit. 

“This past week, we saw a real uptick in the number of people in the hospital, particularly occupying ICU beds, and that’s been part of the big challenge. As you know, we had a big outbreak in new cases in northwest Oklahoma. Quite a few patients were transferred over to the Oklahoma City metroplex to be in the hospital, particularly for ICU beds. The ICU in Oklahoma City started to get full and we actually saw some transfers that started happening up to Stillwater, and a few patients were even transferred over to Tulsa. So we’ve had a substantial number of patients in the hospital, particularly using the ICU beds. Right now in Oklahoma, there are more than 200 people with COVID-19 in an ICU bed. And I talked to a physician over at Stillwater yesterday and they have opened up an additional five beds now because they’re at capacity,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief COVID Officer.

Although many people are concerned about COVID-19 spreading through counties with large populations, Dr. Bratzler says rural Oklahoma counties are also fueling the spread of the virus.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed through the pandemic is that, of course, the majority of new cases, the big numbers each day, come out of Oklahoma County, Tulsa County, Cleveland County, which have the biggest populations. But when you actually look at the incidents of COVID-19 by population, we’re actually seeing more cases by population out in many of our rural counties than we are in the metropolitan counties. So there’s been a shift in the demographics of the infection. We’re seeing more people in rural counties come down with this infection and, of course, those patients when they get sick often get transferred to larger hospitals for their care,” he said.

Recently, many families across the state have asked school districts to bring their students back to the classroom.

However, Dr. Bratzler says those in-person classes are likely causing part of the spread.

“There’s no question that reopening the schools has increased the number of cases in Oklahoma. There have been a number of articles now that have looked at the spread of COVID-19 into the Midwest and into the Central United States, and they’ve highlighted that it is many rural counties now that account for many new cases. And those are often areas that do not have mask policies and other things that might help protect some people. So for schools that are open, at the very least, I strongly encourage that they require masks in the schools to reduce the transmission of the virus,” he said.

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