OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Health officials across Oklahoma are stressing the importance of taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously as cases and hospitalizations continue to climb.
On Tuesday, data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state has had 199,482 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March.
That’s an increase of 1,737 cases, or a 0.9% increase.
There were 15 additional deaths caused by the virus, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 1,758.
Currently, health officials say there are 1,637 patients in Oklahoma hospitals with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
As hospitalizations continue to climb, many local hospitals are preparing for an influx in patients.
On Monday, the Oklahoma City Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team helped the Oklahoma City-County Health Department by assembling portable shelters for the possibility of overflowing COVID-19 patients.
During a news conference on Tuesday, several medical professionals stressed the importance of taking precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We absolutely need the public to take this very seriously,” said Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association.
In recent weeks, they say they have been concerned about the Thanksgiving holiday and are worried about large gatherings at Christmas.
Dr. David Kendrick, founder and CEO of MyHealth Access Network, says he has been keeping a close eye on the positivity rate of COVID-19 cases across Oklahoma.
Currently, Kendrick says that the state has a 22.04% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests over the past seven days.
He says historically, there has been a major difference in positivity rates between cities with mask mandates versus those without.
“Historically, up until the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen a major difference between cities with and without the masking ordinances, upwards of 4 or 5% difference in positivity rate,” Kendrick said.
Now, he says there appears to be a narrowing as cases rise across the state. As a result, they say there is evidence of community spread.
“Even in cities with a masking policy, the rates are rising,” he said. “I don’t take this to mean that masks aren’t effective. I take this to mean that community spread has increased even more.”
Davis says they’re concerned about recent models that showed that hospitalizations could double in the state by the end of December or beginning of January.
“The reason that the health care providers on this call have been calling for individuals to do the right thing, calling for municipalities to take up mask mandates; we’re certainly looking at those models. Are we concerned about those models? Absolutely. The only way that we can make models not come to pass is for the public to take this very seriously and do everything they can to help stem this community spread,” Davis said.
Health experts warned that even though you might have already had COVID-19 in the past, that doesn’t mean you’re immune to the virus forever.
At this point, more studies need to be done to determine exactly how long antibodies will protect you. However, they say there are different strains of the virus and there have been cases where a patient has been reinfected.
“Because of the widespread community spread that we’re seeing in Oklahoma, anything that you can do to avoid being around a large number of people is really important. So I would say even now, we should really limit going out in public to essential trips, trips that you have to take,” said Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. “When you do go out in public and you have to go to a store, try to go to a store that has a facemask requirement. That’s another important point. So all the things that we’re doing, all the things that we’re saying, these are ways to reduce your chances of getting COVID.”
Doctors say that even though you may be tired of staying home and taking precautions, it is not the time to let your guard down.
“It’s time to circle the wagons here in Oklahoma and protect one another,” Monks said.
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