Delta variant responsible for cluster outbreaks, sicker patients, officials say

A woman waits in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at a Caring Van clinic at the Imperio Event Center in May. The rapid spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 in Oklahoma has health officials urging people to get vaccinated now. 

TULSA – A COVID-19 variant responsible for cluster outbreaks and younger, sicker patients has representatives of health care professional organizations across Oklahoma again urging residents to get tested and vaccinated.

After a call two weeks ago for labs to send more samples to the state’s new Stillwater-based Public Health Lab for sequencing, hospitals have submitted samples from the northeastern corner of the state, where officials predicted an influx of delta variant cases from neighboring Missouri, and the variant has been confirmed in people hospitalized there and in other areas of outbreak, State Epidemiologist Jolianne Stone said.

According to late-June data, Tulsa County led the state in active COVID-19 cases, nearing 400, followed by Comanche County, which saw close to 245. Stone said the latter active case count likely is attributable to military traffic through Fort Sill.

Despite their population differences, Ottawa County, in the northeasternmost corner of the state, boasted more active cases than Oklahoma County, at 161 compared to 132. Delaware County, another northeastern county, recorded 52.

Dr. Sam Ratermann, president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and a family medicine physician with INTEGRIS Grove Hospital in Delaware County, said during the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition panel Tuesday that the delta variant seems to be “preying on the unvaccinated.”