Pandemic death toll tops 1,800 in Oklahoma

Michael D. Smith

Oklahoma’s top health official said the recent growth in new cases of and deaths from COVID-19 remain concerning after a backlog of data sent the state’s pandemic death toll above 1,800. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 54 new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Wednesday. The highest one-day number included deaths dating back to Oct. 24 and included one person between the ages of 18 and 34. At least 37 of those deaths have occurred since Nov. 26.

Oklahoma has recorded 1,812 COVID-19 deaths, including 54 new deaths reported Wednesday. A chart released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health breaks down when the deaths actually occurred since Oct. 20.

“While these numbers never represent a pure one-day increase - as reports of deaths and cases are staggered over multiple days - the case and death growth is still concerning,” said state health commissioner Dr. Lance Frye in a Wednesday statement.

“We must remember that each count, each case and each infection is a life. These Oklahomans, and the others who passed before them, were our neighbors and loved ones,” Frye said.

Further questions about the delayed reporting and OSDH role in confirming COVID-19 deaths were not answered by a department spokesperson by press time.

The Wednesday update also included 2,859 new cases of the disease, sending the state’s cumulative total case number over 200,000. The seven-day average of new cases on Wednesday slid to its lowest mark in over two weeks but has not fallen below 2,000 since Nov. 20, according to data compiled by The Ardmoreite.

Oklahoma had 513 new cases per 100,000 population, compared to a national average of 349 per 100,000, according to the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report dated Nov. 29 and released by OSDH on Wednesday.

“Like many states across the country, we anticipated a rise in cases because of Thanksgiving, both because of family gatherings and facility reporting delays. However, this increase in our infection rate is alarming and should serve as a continued reminder that we must stay vigilant as we head into another holiday season,” Frye said.

Carter County has recorded 1,778 cases of COVID-19 after 30 new cases were reported on Wednesday. That also sent the county’s seven-day average of new cases to its lowest point in over a week.

Carter County recorded 30 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, which sent the seven-day average down to 32.29.

The number of active cases recorded statewide went below 30,000 for the first time since Nov. 18 after falling by more than 12% in two days. At least 347 active cases of the disease were recorded in Carter County on Wednesday, within 5% of the record high set on Nov. 30.

The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

At least 347 active cases of the disease were recorded in Carter County on Wednesday.

The number of hospitalizations linked to the disease also remains a concern among health officials. The seven-day average of new daily hospitalizations in Oklahoma rose slightly to 124.29 on Wednesday, and over 27% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations have been recorded between Nov. 4 and Dec. 2.

Current hospitalizations statewide rose to a record high 1,673 on Wednesday. Mercy Hospital Ardmore was caring for 17 COVID-19 patients, eight of whom were receiving ICU care, according to a hospital spokesperson.

The most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Oklahoma shows the state in the red zone for new cases — the 19th-highest rate in the country — and test positivity. “Oklahoma has seen stability in new cases and stability in test positivity,” read the report.

Frye continued to urge Oklahomas to follow health guidance in Wednesday’s statement. 

“Following the 3 W’s — wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance — is a choice. However today, more than ever before, I ask you to consider these guidelines as your responsibility. I ask you to act to protect your family and loved ones,” he said.

“When you choose to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, you help slow the spread and limit the strain on our healthcare system. You can save lives.”