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Officials update hospital capacity plans as pandemic nears 600 Oklahoma deaths

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite
Dr. Lance Frye, interim Commissioner for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, speaks to reporters during a live streamed press conference Thursday. State officials say hospital capacity has not been pushed to its limit during an ongoing pandemic.

State officials touted Oklahoma’s hospital surge plan and a 99.3% COVID-19 recovery rate during a Thursday press conference, the same day over 800 new cases and 10 new deaths were reported by health officials.

“We still have to take this very seriously, take care of our most vulnerable and the folks that are most affected, which is over 65 and people with compromised immune systems,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt during the update, which was also streamed live on the governor’s Facebook page.

“Out of all the folks that have tested positive since June 1, 99.3% recovery rate in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “Under the age of 65, the recovery rate is 99.8%.”

While a vast majority of confirmed Oklahoma residents that have contracted COVID-19 either have or will recover, 593 Oklahomans have died Ed the disease and nearly 3,500 hospitalizations have been recorded since March.

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Since June 1, when the state fully reopened, 259 deaths and more than 2,500 hospitalizations have been reported.

On Thursday, total Oklahoma COVID-19 cases reached 41,401 with almost 6,500 presumably active cases. At least 643 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in Oklahoma hospitals on Thursday.

Oklahoma has recorded 41,401 cases of COVID-19 since March, with 34,320 recoveries and 593 deaths linked to the disease. 3,497 virus-related hospitalizations have been recorded across the state, with 643 confirmed or suspected cases being treated in hospitals on Thursday.

Ten new deaths linked to the disease were also reported on Thursday. All of the new deaths reported Thursday were over the age of 50.

Oklahoma State Department of Health interim Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said that the state’s health care system is better prepared for the pandemic than it was in March.

“When COVID-19 first got to Oklahoma, I just want everyone to remember that we were really in crisis mode. As the governor said, we had a very low stockpile of supplies, we did not have in-state testing capacity, and the original modeling showed that they were expecting 30,000 Oklahomans to die,” said Frye.

As part of the hospital surge plan, Frye said telemedicine at rural hospitals was an early priority. Health officials also worked with hospitals around the state to develop plans to increase patient capacity and create units dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients.

“The original hospital surge plan was built on modeling that every hospital in Oklahoma would be over capacity. Again, fortunately, to date we’ve not had to use that capacity,” Frye said.

More than 50 new hospitalizations were recorded Thursday, settling the seven-day average above 56. Thursday's average was among the lowest seen in about two weeks but still significantly higher than before the June surge.

Oklahoma Army National Guard Lt. Col. Matt Stacy has helped develop the state’s hospital surge plan and said Thursday that the plan has evolved since the state implemented a reopening plan in June.

“All regions throughout the state have ICU beds, have ventilators, and they have the ability to care for COVID patients,” said Stacy.

OSDH data shows Oklahoma hospitals are not at capacity, and Stacy said one goal of the hospital surge plan is to make sure patients can be treated close to home. “So therefore, hospitals in the non-metro regions, the areas where we have not seen as much of a surge, are going to continue to treat patients within their home region as appropriate,” he said.

Carter County recorded 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with new cases in Ardmore, Healdton, Lone Grove and Springer. More than 87% of Carter County cases have been recorded since June 1.

With 267 recoveries and four deaths reported in the county, at least 55 cases were presumably active on Thursday. Presumably active cases in Carter County have not dropped below 20 since June.

Carter County has recorded 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 267 recoveries and four deaths.