Experts express alarm by record Oklahoma coronavirus cases

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
11/14/2020 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — New coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations in Oklahoma have surged to record highs in the past week, while the rate of positive tests rise and the number of total tests have declined, medical officials said recently. 

There have been 10,256 newly reported virus cases in the past week, 103 additional deaths and more than 1,000 hospitalizations each of the past three days, said Dr. Dale Bratzler of the University of Oklahoma Health medical center.

“There were about 12,000 less tests done last week than there had been for the previous several weeks,” perhaps because of an ice storm that left hundreds of thousands, including testing locations, without power, Bratzler said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 91,000 to 95,000 tests for each of the previous five weeks.

“The important thing that I’ve noticed this week ... is that 12.6% of all the tests that have been done have been positive, which is the highest positive rate I’ve seen since the start of the pandemic,” Bratzler said. “So the number of people in the community that are infected has gone up, it’s not because were doing more testing.”

The state health department reported 1,878 new cases and 1,025 people hospitalized Friday, down from one-day records of 2,101 new cases and 1,055 hospitalizations reported Thursday. The department reported 16 more deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. There have been 131,751 reported cases and 1,429 deaths since the pandemic began.

The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Bratzler and OU Health acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cameron Mantor said residents must take personal responsibility by wearing masks, washing hands and socially distancing.

“Hospitals can't fix the pandemic. Hospitals and doctors are not going to make the pandemic go away. It is of paramount importance that the community is part of the solution,” Mantor said.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can suffer severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Bratzler said it is possible that a vaccine could be available by the end of the year, but distribution would likely be limited first to health care officials, then to high risk groups such as those in nursing homes or assisted living. Broad distribution of a vaccine is not likely before the middle of 2021, Bratzler said.

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