“This is a critical week,” Mayor Holt says increase in COVID-19 cases may cause city to rethink reopening plan

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the number of coronavirus cases across the state have increased dramatically in the last couple of weeks, city leaders in Oklahoma City say it is time for residents to resume better habits.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt held a news conference to discuss the city’s response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

On Tuesday morning, data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state has had 11,028 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March. 

That’s an increase of 295 cases over the past 24 hours, or a 2.7% jump.

Graph of cases
Credit: Oklahoma State Department of Health

Although the number of cases has steadily climbed, officials say the number of deaths has remained low due to the cases predominantly affecting people in the 18-50-year-old demographic.

However, there has been an uptick in the number of hospitalizations.

On Wednesday, 43 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Oklahoma City metro area. Less than a week later, that number had increased to 79.

“New cases in the OKC metro have spiked in the last two weeks and now are averaging around 80 new cases per day. At our first peak in the beginning of April, we were only averaging around 50,” said Holt. “This spike has happened in an environment where total tests administered have declined due to diminishing demand and where the percentage of people testing positive has increased.”

Coronavirus
(Getty)

It has been shown that younger adults tend to fare better than older adults when it comes to severe cases of the virus. However, officials stress that the younger generation is more active and has the potential to spread the virus easily.

“People between the ages of 18 and 50 are more likely than ever before to be carrying this virus in Oklahoma City and giving it to more vulnerable people,” said Holt.

Holt says if hospitalizations continue to rise at the same rate that has been seen over the past few days or if deaths spike, he says he will have to roll back through the phases of the city’s reopening plan.

“This is a critical week, and we will be watching this data every day,” Holt said.

Holt stresses that Oklahoma City residents should pay close attention to their actions and follow precautions that were issued by the CDC.

“If you have relaxed your own personal precautions, and let’s face it, chances are you have, it is time to resume better habits,” he said.

Dr. Patrick McGough, executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, is encouraging younger adults to take the virus seriously.

“You may look at the data and determine the virus isn’t really about you or your social group, and that there is no need for concern. But there is. There are individuals in your age demographic who have died,” Dr. McGough said.

He warns that while you may simply feel like you have a cold, it could prove very dangerous for people you love.

“If a member of your age demographic contracts COVID-19, they may suffer briefly with little or no symptoms but your mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather who you spread it to might not fare so well and may not survive. This is also the case if you have friends in your same age demographic who have one or more chronic health conditions,” McGough said.

Officials say they know that staying away from friends and your daily routine was difficult, but health experts say it is still important to take precautions now.

McGough says they have identified seven ‘super spreader events’ that are known to spread the virus easily:

  • Faith-based activities
  • House gatherings
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Small private events
  • Indoor Gyms
  • Bars.

McGough says you should not participate in activities where you can’t stay six feet away from others, or wear a mask.

Also, he warns that young people who seem to be suffering from allergies for a prolonged time should be tested for COVID-19.

“That’s basically based upon the ongoing interviews with our epidemiologists are having with individuals. They keep hearing, especially in the age group 18 to 49, that people will say, ‘Well, I just thought I had a tickle in my throat. I thought I was having some problems with my allergies,'” McGough said.

Health officials say they are hearing that businesses are requiring some sick employees to continue working, which is extremely dangerous.

“Today is a bit of a wakeup call that we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” said Holt.

Holt says wearing a mask can play a big role in mitigating the spread of the virus in the community. Dr. McGough says wearing a mask has been proven to protect the person wearing the mask and protecting others around them from the virus.

“It is not a political statement to wear a mask. It is not a political statement to not wear a mask,” McGough said.

Holt says that he will continue to watch the data and will make decisions based on where the trend is going.

“Keeping our economy open depends on each one of us,” said Dr. McGough.

Here is a link to the Oklahoma County-by-County COVID-19 numbers

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