Record COVID-19 numbers have health officials calling for state action

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma hospitalization data has one of the state’s top health officials calling for a statewide mask mandate to try to stem the flood of COVID-19 patients into Oklahoma healthcare system.

Today, Oklahoma set its new pandemic record for hospitalizations with 1,026 coronavirus patients.

It has the head of the Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) worried and calling for action by state officials.

“This is a statewide hospital crisis,” said Dr. George Monks.

The OSMA head says now that the election is over, it’s time for Oklahomans to focus on the huge COVID numbers in hospital care.

“We’ve got to do something different. The pathway we are on is unsustainable,” said Dr. Monks.

“We are over the number that we felt like was our target- we are over that. That doesn’t mean people are going without care, it just means we have to be more creative with the way we deliver it,” said Dr. David Chansolme, Head of Infectious Disease for Integris Medical.

Both Dr. Chansolme and Dr. Monks point out that COVID patients are having to be moved around the state to make sure they get a bed and care.

“There are a lot of different factors that go into why the hospitalization numbers are so high but the most important one is the increased transmission of disease. There is no question about it. There are simply more people getting COVID right now and not a lot is being done about it,” said Chansolme.

Monks agrees, he says that Oklahoma needs to learn from some of its cities and institute a statewide mask mandate… or at least a county by county plan that would enforce mask wearing when counties entered the yellow or orange zone on the state COVID map.

“When you talk about a face mask mandate in some of these areas, that the low hanging fruit. That’s the easy thing. Telling somebody that they can’t have surgery or telling them they are going to have to go to a hospital an hour and a half away, or telling them that their business is going to have to be shut down, that’s hard,” said Monks.

However, Governor Stitt’s administration has not been moved by the health leaders’ urgings.

“The governor’s message on masks has been clear and has not changed for months: he strongly encourages Oklahomans to wash their hands frequently, watch their distance and wear a mask when around others. We would invite Dr. Monks to use his platform to join us and inspire Oklahomans to take personal responsibility to wear a mask to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors rather than continuing to divide us on the issue of government mandates.”

Gov. Stitt’s communication office

But some leaders agree with Dr. Monks on the need for a statewide mask requirement.

“The state actually shares the chart on a regular basis that shows how the communities with a mask requirement have a lower transmission rate than the communities that don’t. So I don’t know why we wouldn’t do something so simple and easy to implement as a mask requirement. I don’t know why we wouldn’t do that on the state level,” said OKC Mayor David Holt.

Holt says as many as 20% of the COVID cases in OKC hospitals right now are coming in from communities that don’t have mask mandates.

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