Public urged to practice social distancing as confirmed virus cases in Oklahoma climbs to 53

Michael Smith

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Oklahoma, health advocates are pleading with the public to take social distancing guidelines seriously. The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Saturday announced 53 cases have been confirmed statewide, with two in Garvin County.

Dr. Ron Stout, CEO of the Ardmore Institute of Health, said the rationale of social distancing is to reduce the number of people who get sick at one time. The threat posed by a potential COVID-19 outbreak in southern Oklahoma lies in the risk of stretching a rural medical system to its breaking point.

“One of the things we have to recognize in Oklahoma is that we have, on a proportional basis, a higher incidence of chronic diseases, a higher incidence of diabetes, of hypertension,” he said by phone on Saturday. The fear is that an outbreak of COVID-19 that requires hospitalization for even a few patients could have a major impact for patients dealing with other illnesses.

Health officials in the area are already considering that possibility and preparing for an influx of patients. Mercy Hospital Ardmore on Friday announced elective and non-urgent surgeries have been postponed. Delays that could negatively affect a patient’s health will be considered and emergency surgeries will continue, according to a statement.

The state health department has set up a Coronavirus call center at (877) 215-8336 and has resources available for people experiencing symptoms.

Beyond reducing unnecessary person-to-person contact and maintaining a six-foot distance from people--especially those coughing, sneezing or running a fever--healthy habits can be an effective way to prevent illness, according to Stout. He said in a Friday statement that exercise and diet can also strengthen a person’s immune system.

“Binge watching shows is fun, but not always advisable,” he said. Getting proper sleep and maintaining mental health are also important factors in staying healthy. For example, proteins made by the body during sleep can target infection and inflammation, and decompressing before bed with prayer or meditation can help reduce stress and improve sleep.

“Along with physical distancing, proper hand-washing is important for protecting not only yourself but others around you--because the virus can be spread even without symptoms,” he said.