“It’s spreading very rapidly,” Oklahoma doctor discusses concerns as delta variant spreads

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As students prepare to head back to class this month, the number of COVID-19 cases across Oklahoma continues to climb.

On Monday, data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state has had 486,232 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March of 2020.

That’s an increase of 5,597 cases since Friday, July 30.

“We’ve seen the number of new cases a day in Oklahoma double in the past 10 days; more than 1,600 cases a day right now and hospitalizations have gone up considerably also; 739 people in the hospital as of yesterday. We have some real concerns right now,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief COVID officer.

While about 45% of Oklahomans are vaccinated against COVID-19, officials say that isn’t enough to stop the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.

Recently, the CDC updated its guidelines to encourage fully vaccinated Americans to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission of the virus is high.

“I think with the delta virus, which is highly contagious, and we now know it can infect people who are fully vaccinated and those people can actually spread the virus. It’s very prudent to wear a mask anytime you’re in an indoor setting right now,” Dr. Bratzler said.

As cases and hospitalizations rise, health experts say they are concerned that patients may soon be sent elsewhere as Oklahoma hospitals reach capacity.

“We had a conversation last night. There are hospital beds. Part of the real problem we’re dealing with right now is a nursing shortage. So even though we have beds we could potentially open up, we don’t have nurses to staff all those beds because we saw so much attrition through the real peak of the pandemic in January and February,” he said.

Now, parents are weighing their options as children are set to head back to class this month.

“Let’s look at the reality. Kids below the age of 12 can’t be vaccinated. Even if you look at the 12 to 17-year age group in schools that can be vaccinated, only about 14 to 15% are fully vaccinated. So we have a highly contagious variant, we’re gonna bring students together that mostly aren’t vaccinated, indoor settings, the chance that the virus spreads is quite high. The mask is one of the most effective ways we have to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

Experts believe this wave’s peak will likely hit in the fall.

“We always worry about variants mutating. I’m more worried about maybe an Indonesia variant or another variant that comes out somewhere else in the world then comes in to the United States. Most of our models right now show that we may peak with this delta variant somewhere late September, October in that neighborhood. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens, but it’s spreading very rapidly,” he said.

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