July surpasses 20,000 new virus cases, new hospitalizations continue surge

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite
Oklahoma recorded 1,089 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, sending the seven-day average over 1,000 for a second day.

More than 20,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the month of July as new hospitalizations set another one-day record on Tuesday. A grim milestone was also reached Tuesday after 13 newly recorded virus-related deaths sent the state death toll above 500.

The 1,089 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded Tuesday sent the state’s cumulative total over 33,700. About 22% of all confirmed cases in the state have been recorded in the last seven days, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Oklahoma has recorded 33,775 cases of COVID-19 since March, including 26.363 recoveries and 509 deaths.

Just under 60% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma have been recorded this month.

The number of current hospitalizations fell below 600 for the first time since July 15 while the number of new recorded hospitalizations surged by 115, according to OSDH data on Tuesday. That one-day record high sent the seven-day average of new statewide hospitalizations near 80. 

Until June, new daily hospitalizations due to COVID-19 rarely neared 40 but reached near 80 on Tuesday. The 2,987 virus-related hospitalizations since March have been recorded at an increasing rate since late June.

Even though the south-central district of OSDH has the lowest number of recorded cases than any of the other ten districts, more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the disease have been recorded in the nine counties. Nearly 50 cases were considered active in Carter County on Monday, and OSDH Regional Director Mendy Spohn said that active cases would now be included in regular reporting.

“We have started posting a summary of the OSDH numbers on our Facebook pages for the local health departments and have included the active category. In District 8, 34% of our cases are in the age group between 18 and 34 followed by 23% in the 50 to 64 age group. Since the beginning of this tracking, 83 (8.6%) of our cases have required hospitalization,” Spohn said in a Monday statement.

Virus-related deaths are also reaching levels unseen since late April, when an average of more than seven people died each day because of the disease. With 122 deaths reported this month, only April recorded more virus-related deaths during the pandemic.

More than 120 virus-related deaths have been recorded in July, sending the seven-day death rate near seven for the first time since April.

Southern Oklahoma started July with five COVID-19 related deaths on record, and at least five more deaths this month have been linked to the disease. 

As Oklahoma records new COVID-19 cases at a record pace, health officials indicate that the state’s cumulative total is likely well below actual case counts. Spohn said some test results are not added to the state’s confirmed totals.

“Currently the rapid antigen test is not considered confirmatory. We do consider positives from antigen tests as likely infectious, so we investigate positive antigen tests and recommend isolation and quarantine from these results,” Spohn said in a Monday statement. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rapid antigen tests can give faster results but may not be as accurate as a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, which are counted as confirmed positive cases. A type of serological, or blood, test can indicate whether a person’s immune system has responded to the virus in the past but cannot be used to identify active cases, according to the FDA.

“Since antigen tests are not approved as confirmatory at this time and OSDH is only adding confirmed positive cases in the state count, antigen positive tests are not counted in the state numbers,” Spohn said.