Oklahoma leaders encourage vaccination as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations surge

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As coronavirus cases continue to climb across Oklahoma, health experts are urging everyone to get vaccinated as kids head back to school.

For weeks, health leaders have encouraged Oklahomans to do their part to protect each other, their families, and the unvaccinated as COVID-19 cases soar.

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye says that the state has seen a “significant increase” in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma due to the more contagious delta variant.

Although COVID-19 vaccines are readily available for Oklahomans 12-years-old and older, less than 50% of the Oklahoma population is fully vaccinated.

At the same time, hospital beds are filling up across the state.

Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa is now delaying nonemergency surgeries because of ‘severe hospital overcrowding.

Rural hospitals across the state are struggling to find places to send critical patients for care.

“We’re in the middle of a bed crisis,” Dr. Carlos Cabrera, doctor at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital in Shawnee, told KFOR this week. “We’ve tried pretty much every hospital in Oklahoma — in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa — there’s just no ICU beds.”

This week, thousands of Oklahoma students headed back to classrooms across the state.

However, state officials said that more than 645,000 students who are heading back to school are not vaccinated for COVID-19, which is sparking concerns for how the virus will spread in communities across the state.

On Thursday, Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye released a video, encouraging Oklahomans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“As many of our children return to the classroom this month, the best thing we can do for them is to get vaccinated. We believe families and school districts are in the best position to determine which mitigation strategies to recommend to ensure students are able to safely meet in person. We are working with our local health departments to ensure families and school officials have access to resources like PPE and testing as students return to school. 

We know there are many Oklahomans who are unvaccinated — children who are not yet eligible, people with preexisting health conditions that preclude vaccination and those who have chosen, for a variety of reasons, to not get the vaccine yet. We also know the vast majority of Oklahomans who are hospitalized and dying of COVID-19 right now are unvaccinated. I urge all eligible Oklahomans to go get your vaccine today to protect yourself and those around you.”

Dr. Lance Frye, Commissioner of Health.

Officials say if you are not vaccinated, you are at a significant risk of becoming ill from the Delta variant. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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