Summer gatherings, virus case surge prompts continued health warnings
New cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma broke the daily record again Wednesday as the state’s total confirmed cases neared 9,000. Carter County numbers held steady while state health officials warn that unknown virus transmission among non-vulnerable populations still remains a concern.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 259 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Wednesday. That record one-day increase brings the state’s cumulative total to 8,904 confirmed cases. New recoveries increased by 133 and one additional death was recorded in Oklahoma County.
Health agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have warned that attending large scale events raises one’s risk of becoming infected and becoming a transmitter of the virus. OSDH Commissioner Lance Frye, MD, has urged people planning to take part in these events, like President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday, to consider the associated risks.
“Plan in advance and seek out testing at one of the State’s 80 free testing centers across the State, or with your healthcare provider, and limit interactions with others prior to attending,” Frye said in a Tuesday statement. “Once the event has concluded, please minimize social interactions and consider being tested again in the days following.”
About 16% of all confirmed cases in Oklahoma have been recorded in the past week, and that surge is keeping state health officials on alert. OSDH Regional Director Mendy Spohn said she continues twice-weekly communication with emergency management directors and health care providers in her region to assess the situation and resources available.
Regional cases remain low compared to other parts of the state and Spohn said local hospitalizations remain few — only two cases are currently hospitalized in Carter County. While her region of nine counties in southern Oklahoma is among the regions least impacted by confirmed cases, she said trends seen in other parts of the state are likely to occur here.
Spohn said a major concern for her region has been the unknown transmission of the virus. Many of the cases she’s seen in southern Oklahoma have been in the less vulnerable populations that may confuse the illness for allergies. She and other health officials worry that those who do not experience major symptoms will not isolate for enough time and end up spreading the disease to more vulnerable populations.
“A lot of the cases that we have will have one or two days of pretty mild illness, but they are definitely positive for COVID and have spread it to other people,” she said. “As far as the severe illness, where people can get really sick, that’s primarily among people with comorbidities.”
She mentioned the difference between the novel coronavirus’s incubation period and infectious period and admits it can be confusing. While scientists know that the virus can be spread several days after symptoms have gone away, transmission during the virus’s incubation period — before symptoms emerge — is possible but harder to detect.
As a result, someone who came in close contact with a confirmed case may be quarantined longer than a person who has recovered from the disease. And even if one person does not experience dangerous symptoms, Spohn said the same virus could be life threatening for someone else with other health conditions.
“Somebody who has been exposed to that case — who is not currently sick, does not currently have COVID — they have to wait 14 days because what we do know about COVID, it takes 14 days sometimes for it to incubate inside of a person,” she said.
On the other hand, someone who had a confirmed case of the disease can be released from quarantine only 10 days after symptom onset as long as their condition has improved and they remain symptom-free for three days without medication.
With Trump’s Tulsa rally and Juneteeth celebrations slated for this weekend, Spohn and other officials continue to urge adherence to health guidelines to mitigate the spread of the disease. Face coverings, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, avoiding face touching, and maintaining six-feet of distancing between others are all common recommendations.
Spohn also urged anybody with even faint symptoms of an illness to avoid gatherings.
“It is so important that if you do know you’re sick, or you think you’re feeling bad, do not go,” she said.