New, active virus cases continue steady increases in Oklahoma – The Journal Record

Dr. Mousumi Som, chief of staff at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. (AP photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The number of reported coronavirus cases in Oklahoma increased by 1,101 on Monday, the fifth consecutive daily increase of more than 1,000 reported cases, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The department also reported two additional deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the illness, bringing the latest numbers to 77,908 confirmed cases of the virus and 948 deaths.

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

The Health Department reported 12,019 active cases, up 625 from Sunday and 1,707 from a week earlier and an increase of 4,405 from a month earlier.

OSDH reported that 64,941 people have recovered, with 522 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Coronavirus infections at prisons in Vinita and McAlester pushed those areas into the top hot spots last week.

Other large increases in active coronavirus cases came in Chickasha, Alva and several ZIP codes in the Oklahoma City area. Alva is home to Bill Johnson Correctional Center, which reported 52 inmates and two staff members with coronavirus infections on Friday.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, at a Capitol press conference, said Oklahoma was among the first states to stop prison visits in the early months of the pandemic. But in recent weeks, cases at prisons across the state have exploded, with almost 900 inmates and 57 staff members with positive cases by Friday.

The latest prison hot spots are at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita, with 295 cases, and Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester, which had 114 cases on Friday.

“That’s the unfortunate thing with this virus. It’s hard to stamp out completely,” said Stitt, who pledged to hold a future briefing on the situation with prison leaders.

The Department of Corrections said it would deploy “rapid response teams” to prison hot spots. The prison system has had five inmate deaths related to COVID-19. At least two staff members have died from COVID-19, The Frontier reported Friday.

Eleven more counties were added to the orange category of the state’s coronavirus alert map on Friday. That brings to 56 the number of counties in that “moderate risk” category. The rest of the state’s counties are the “low-risk,” or yellow, category.

At the press conference, Stitt defended the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic after the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report showed Oklahoma among the nation’s top five states for test positivity. The report said Oklahoma had a weekly positivity rate of 10%. Stitt said a more consistent positivity rate was calculated by Johns Hopkins University and showed the state at about 7%.

“That’s the positivity rate we track, and we’re nowhere close to them,” Stitt said.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients remained high but have been between 500 and 600 per day for the last several weeks across the state. Public health officials said patients are spending less time in the hospital on average than they were in the first few months of the pandemic’s appearance in Oklahoma. That’s likely due to a better understanding of treatment options and promising antiviral drugs like Remdesivir, which the Food and Drug Administration placed into an emergency use authorization category to treat COVID-19 in May.

“The reason for this emergency use authorization was because it showed that recovery can actually be 11 days for patients who receive Remdesivir versus 15 days for patients who don’t,” said Dr. Mousumi Som, chief of staff at Oklahoma State University Medical Center in Tulsa. “So that’s a big thing when a patient is suffering from COVID-19.”

The federal government has allocated Remdesivir by state and has shipped more than 1,300 cases so far to Oklahoma hospitals. Each case has 40 vials of the drug.

Meanwhile, the University of Oklahoma announced a number of changes on Friday to its student seating section for this week’s football game after what it described as “disappointing behaviors” by students during the season opener in Norman.

OU announced in a press release it plans to increase security personnel to help enforce a mask mandate, tape off prohibited sections and establish seating clusters for groups of up to 10 students beginning with the Sooners’ Sept. 26 game against Kansas State.

During the Sept. 12 game against Missouri State, students were seen packed together and not wearing masks in the student section of the stadium, where capacity has been limited to about 25%.

“Staff will work with game attendees in an effort to achieve compliance with seating and masking requirements,” the university said. “Attendees who do not cooperate are subject to removal from the stadium and may have future game attendance privileges revoked.”

–Includes contributions from Oklahoma Watch, Associated Press

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