Active virus cases in Carter County reach another high, statewide trends show COVID-19 rapidly spreading

Michael D. Smith

A feared third wave of the pandemic is sweeping the state as active cases of COVID-19 hit more record highs in Oklahoma and Carter County. Seven-day averages of new daily cases and newly reported deaths in Oklahoma also reached their highest levels of the pandemic on Thursday as area schools and daycares close their doors.

The state has recorded 164,340 total cases of COVID-19 and 1,588 deaths linked to the disease, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. With 2,915 new cases reported between Wednesday and Thursday, the seven-day average of new cases statewide rose above 2,800 for the first time, according to OSDH data compiled by The Ardmoreite.

The seven-day average of new daily cases rose to a record high Thursday. Over 25% of all COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in November.

The seven-day average of newly reported deaths linked to the disease climbed to 15.29, the highest level recorded, after 18 new deaths were reported on Thursday. The number of active cases statewide grew by 661 to 30,484.

The number of patients in Oklahoma hospitals with confirmed or suspected cases fell from Wednesday’s record high but still remained at 1,381, the second highest number recorded during the pandemic.

Along with the coronavirus pandemic, health officials are also watching statistics surrounding influenza. At least 51 people in Oklahoma have been hospitalized with the flu since Sept. 1, according to the OSDH influenza surveillance system on Thursday.

Between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 29, 2020, the flu hospitalized 3,580 Oklahomans and killed 85. The worst flu season in a decade for Oklahoma was between 2017 and 2018, when 4,840 Oklahomans were hospitalized and 293 people died, according to OSDH historical data.

Statewide coronavirus trends are similar to Carter County trends showing a worsening situation as active cases reached another high mark on Thursday. The number of confirmed cases in the county climbed to 1,327, an increase of 32 since Wednesday. The seven-day average of new confirmed cases in the county fell slightly to 29.1 after reaching a record high 30.9 on Wednesday.

At least 269 cases of COVID-19 were active in Carter County on Thursday, the highest number yet recorded in the county.

The 269 active cases of COVID-19 reported in Carter County on Thursday are the most recorded locally. The seven-day average of new daily recoveries has been outpaced by the seven-day average of new daily cases since Oct. 1.

The seven-day average of new cases in Carter County was about 50% higher than the average of new recoveries Thursday. The two averages remained close to each other through early months of the pandemic until new daily cases started to drastically outpace new recoveries beginning in October.

The recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Carter County has led to every public school system in the county implementing distance learning in some form or fashion this week, according to phone calls to or statements from each of the nine public school systems in Carter County. At least one county daycare, Gloria Ainsworth Child Care, has notified parents of a closure through the end of November due to positive COVID-19 test results.

The decision to close schools, daycare centers and businesses is guided by state health officials but ultimately left up to individual organizations. OSDH regional director Mendy Spohn said many of these groups have established their own protocols for decision-making.

“When we are contacted by day care or school locations, we try to give them a picture of the level of community spread in our area. As of now, it is obviously a large percent. We don’t tell schools, businesses, or other organizations to close. We walk through their individual circumstances in their operations,” Spohn said on Thursday.

Schools that made the decision to close classrooms and shift to distance learning did so the week before a scheduled holiday break. Health care officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are urging Americans to forego holiday travel and family gatherings that may spread the virus further.

Spohn said southern Oklahomans who will travel regardless of public health recommendations should take precautions.

“It is very smart to consider family members over 65 and those with underlying health conditions when making plans. Masks work. Use them. Celebrate outside. Limit physical contact. Wash hands,” she said.