New school year prompts more virus concerns as new cases break one-day record

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma continue to rise as state health officials get the reporting website caught up with accurate data. An additional 1,400 cases of the disease were reported on Monday, which sent the total number of Oklahoma cases to 32,686.

As the number of cases grows with increasing speed, calls for caution are also beginning to grow as a new school year is planned to begin in earnest next week. Southern Oklahoma’s top health official also expects a busy month in August as schools reopen.

Based on numbers from the department’s website dashboard, the 1,401 new COVID-19 cases reported Monday are the highest one-day jump in confirmed cases. Nearly 19,000 cases have been reported in the month of July and account for 60% of all Oklahoma cases since early March.

Oklahoma has recorded 32,686 cases of COVID-19, with 25,252 recoveries and 496 virus-related deaths. More than 2,800 hospitalizations have been linked to the disease.

Nearly 7,000 cases were active on Monday morning, according to OSDH Regional Director Mendy Spohn. According to the department’s weekly epidemiological report, Oklahoma ranks 38th in the number of cases per 100,000 residents. 

Several days of data reporting from the Oklahoma State Department of Health this month showed inconsistent daily numbers, specifically between the department’s website dashboard and its daily situation updates. A post on the department’s social media accounts on Friday said that the inconsistencies were expected to be fully resolved over the weekend.

Oklahoma set another one-day record of new confirmed COVID-19 cases Monday, which sent the seven-day average of new daily cases above 1,000.

In light of the record one-day number of new confirmed cases, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy released a statement on Monday urging caution as schools begin to reopen in the coming days. 

“With the surging numbers and impending return to school of many students, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is urging everyone to take caution and protect yourself as much as you possibly can, along with those around you,” read the statement. 

Their statement comes days after the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidance on reopening schools.

“Given this guidance, at this time OKAAP and OAFP cannot support a statewide return to in-person school decision for Oklahoma in August,” read a joint statement on Friday. 

“Additionally, safety policies and resources are not standardized across the state, leading to inequitable protection for children, teachers, and families. These disparities are especially detrimental to minority and low-income individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

Spohn said she has recently been asked to speak at public hearings regarding the pandemic and noted in a Monday statement that Ada has recently approved a mask mandate. 

“We have very few tools to fight COVID-19. Mask usage is one. The others are social distancing and case/contact tracking,” Spohn said.

She said meetings with school superintendents have also been scheduled as schools prepare to begin a new school year next month.

“I anticipate a very busy month as schools reopen,” Spohn said.