OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes its masking guidelines, doctors across Oklahoma are stressing the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation in the Sooner State.
Dr. Sam Ratermann, president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and a family medicine physician with INTEGRIS Grove Hospital, says two-thirds of patients admitted to his hospital have COVID-19.
In addition, he says many of those patients are younger with more serious symptoms. The common thread between the patients- they are unvaccinated.
“I think the level of misinformation out there is really heartbreaking,” Dr. Ratermann said.
Doctors say there is only so much they can do to prevent more deaths from COVID-19. Instead, the future of the pandemic lies in the hands of the public.
“It’s gotta stop somewhere,” he said. “We can’t keep these levels up.”
Oklahoma medical experts say hospitals are filling up, and they’re concerned about what the situation will look like in the coming months.
Since Gov. Kevin Stitt has given no indication that he plans to issue another state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, doctors say some of the safeguards that helped keep hospitals afloat in 2020 will no longer be in place.
“We are effectively at 100% agreement that we need an emergency order,” said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Without an emergency order, schools will not be able to require masks. Also, hospitals would be limited to what they could do to handle an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Already, hospitals across Oklahoma are experiencing dramatic increases in the number of patients they are treating.
As a result, a hospital in Stillwater already had to divert patients to other hospitals due to a lack of beds.
“We’re all sitting here biting our nails to an extent,” Clarke said.
Dr. Clarke warns that if something doesn’t give, Oklahoma could see all hospitals on divert status.
“It won’t take four months. It will happen before we know it because of the transmissibility of delta,” she said.
Right now, experts say Oklahoma has a 16.5% positivity test rate for COVID-19, which is similar to the situation the state faced in November of 2020.
The highest number of new cases appears to be coming from younger patients in the 18 to 35-year-old age group.
However, medical officials warn that the true situation may not be reflected in the numbers.
Dr. David Kendrick, founder and CEO of MyHealth Access Network,Department Chair of Medical Informatics at OU School of Community Medicine, says many people are not getting tested until their symptoms are more severe.
Also, he says more patients are getting home tests, which are not automatically included in the state’s official COVID-19 numbers.
“We are pleading at this point for vaccination,” said Dr. Jean Hausheer, past president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and leader of the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition COVID-19 Task Force.
Doctors say they are seeing younger patients with no comorbidities needing extensive treatment due to this COVID-19 variant.
In fact, data suggests that more COVID-19 patients are ending up in the ICU than almost any other time during the pandemic.
“We’re doing the best we can, but we need the public’s help,” Dr. Clarke said.