OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Doctors in leadership positions at each of the Oklahoma City metro’s major medical centers are preparing for a surge in patients.
They are worried Oklahomans are not doing enough to stem the COVID-19 crisis.
Hospital systems are now sending out this warning: every time you leave your home you are putting yourself at risk.
Oklahoma medical systems are now joining forces to help residents understand how important it is to stay at home.
COVID-19 came to Oklahoma City in spectacular fashion.
Thunder fans had a front row seat March 11th, as the NBA cancelled the season when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive.
Nearly four weeks later, some medical professionals believe we should have locked down Oklahoma that night.
Some say we are losing the battle against coronavirus.
“We’ve tested under 20,000 people in a state of four million people,” said Dr. Jeff Cruzan, President of Integris Medical Group. “We’ve tested less than one half of one percent of the population. We have no idea how many cases are out there. There’s a huge number of cases out there. It’s inadequate where we are right now.”
Mobile testing sites are open, but Oklahoma remains last in the nation for the number of people tested, per capita.
New York has the highest rate of COVID-19 testing.
Their hospitals are overrun.
Doctors at every medical system in the Oklahoma City metro say Oklahoma could be in a very similar situation, if residents don’t heed medical advice to remain isolated.
“People have to understand, the only vaccine for this virus is staying at home,” said Integris Health Partners President, Dr Carl Raczkowski.
In Oklahoma, poor health outcomes are well-documented.
The coronavirus pandemic is on track to overwhelm a system already taxed by an unhealthy population.
“We live in a state that has (high rates of) obesity, diabetes, heart disease. All of the things that are the worst risk factors for this disease we lead the country in,” said Dr. Raczkowski. “We have, if not reality, a real potential of our healthcare system being over-run, so if you’re having a heart attack you might not be able to get in the door because there’s no room in the inn.”
In Oklahoma the messaging out of the Governor’s office has been consistent. Their plan “safer at home” recommends Oklahomans over 65 years old should stay home.
The Oklahoma City mayor has gone one step further, urging all residents to stay at home, only leaving for essential errands like purchasing food or medicine.
The medical community is now sending urgent word to the public, stay home and stay isolated.
These medical experts say far too many Oklahomans are running non-essential errands, or bringing their children with them to the grocery store.
“What people really don’t understand is we are essentially food for the virus. If we stay at home, the virus runs out of its food supply. If you take grandma and the kids to Walmart, they just became the new buffet offering for the virus,” said Dr. Cruzan. “So they really have to stay at home if we’re going to stem the tide of this pandemic. We have to starve the virus out, and that’s how we do it. We stay at home. We don’t let it have another food source.”
The novel coronavirus needs people to keep getting together, going shopping together, visiting public places together in order for humans to fuel the feeding frenzy.
Medical experts say the best way to stop the disease from feasting on humanity is to isolate.
“Assume every person they come in contact with outside the house they’re living in has this disease,” said Dr. Raczkowski. “How would you act if you had a potentially fatal illness that was in everybody that you interact with. What would you do? I think if you think of it that way you’ll do the right thing.”
Epidemiologists now believe individuals are capable of infecting another person with COVID-19 despite exhibiting no symptoms.
“What we know about COVID-19 is that a lot of individuals may feel great, and are not having any symptoms from COVID-19, but they can be actively shedding particles everywhere they’re going and spreading it to other individuals,” said Dr. Charles Smith, Vice President of Medical Affairs for Mercy Health OKC.
No sane person would get on a cruise ship right now because we know these vessels are a breeding grounds for disease. Medical experts say going to the grocery store is like hopping on a cruise ship.
“All of those people in the store are at risk of being infected,” said Dr. Cruzan. “The difference is, it’s not a ship out at sea. They can’t contain it. Those people go to another store, and you have another mini cruise ship episode, and it just keeps spreading. That’s how we end up with a pandemic.”
Take heart, Oklahoma.
We’ll get through this. Our best bet is to hang tight at home right now, so we can outlast this menace before coronavirus claims any more victims.
According to the Medical Director at OU Medicine, Dr. Cameron Mantor, the required changes are small. They key is every citizen has to prioritize isolation.
“We have lots of predictive models of what Oklahoma would look like compared to other states. I think we are lucky in that we don’t have the density of population like you have in New York City. So, I think there is no question, we can continue to flatten this curve and decrease the burden of the people who do become ill in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Mantor. “But, it’s going to be us. We absolutely can impact this, but it’s going to take all of us.”
We are all in this together.
Recently, the CDC recommended using cloth face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Over the past few days, we’ve seen a number of Oklahomans follow that recommendation.