State health commissioner says "now is not the time to ease up on our efforts"
A state health advisory issued Tuesday asks Oklahomans to step up efforts to combat the pandemic so schools and businesses can keep the economy thriving. The advisory from the state’s top health official also calls for faster turnaround between specimen testing and results notification.
Oklahoma’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 46,000 on Thursday, doubling in the most recent four weeks of the months long pandemic. Eleven new deaths were also recorded statewide to mark 638 linked to the disease.
“While we are encouraged to see our case numbers continue to trend down and our hospitalization numbers on the decline, I want to caution that now is not the time to ease up on our efforts,” said Oklahoma State Department of Health interim Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye in a Thursday statement.
“While many efforts are inconveniences now, actions like face mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing are key to stopping the spread of the virus,” he said.
Oklahoma has spent just over two weeks with active cases near 6,900, plateauing after a steady increase from fewer than 1,000 in early June. The number of patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 reached at least 600 on Thursday after falling slightly from a record 663 on July 29.
Many data markers that showed surges since June have slowed, and in some cases declined, but remain significantly higher than pre-surge levels. Seven-day averages for new daily confirmed cases have fallen more than 60% since the peak in late July, but still remain more than seven times higher than pre-surge levels in early June.
The seven-day average for new daily deaths in Oklahoma fell 25% from its peak in early August, but remains more than four times higher than pre-surge levels in late June.
Carter County recorded six new cases and six new recoveries on Thursday, which kept the number of cases not considered deceased or recovered at 54 for a second day.
The health advisory issued Thursday calls for improved testing capacity from public and private entities, including a 48-hour turnaround or less. Frye also calls on the OSDH to continue improving the state’s data collection system, and asks the public to keep economic drivers in operation.
"Whereas, as schools reopen, it is of utmost importance to keep our teachers, administrators, and students safe, while also allowing our businesses to stay open and keeping Oklahoma's economy thriving," reads Thursday's public health advisory.
Full document:Read the full health advisory from OSDH
It also cites recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Surgeon General, and emergency declarations from the White House and Gov. Kevin Stitt. Social recommendations for each county are made based on the state’s COVID-19 Alert System, which assigns color levels weekly to counties based on the rate of the virus’s spread.
Recommendations for counties categorized as orange or red continue to include properly wearing face coverings in public, especially when social distancing of at least six feet cannot be accomplished regardless of being indoors or outdoors.
Restaurant staff in these counties are also asked to wear face coverings, and travelers from these counties are also encouraged to consider the risk of unknowingly spreading the disease.
Carter County is considered a yellow, or low risk, county but neighboring Marshal County is among several orange, or moderate risk, counties, according to the most recent alert from Aug. 6. No counties are considered red high risk and only one county, Cimarron County, has a green new normal risk.